Local farmers’ markets have been increasing in number, seeing a 170 percent increase over the last decade, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. In 2009, there were nearly 5,300 farmers markets around the country, totaling sales of over $1.2 billion for the year, the USDA’s “Farmers’ Markets Report” has found.
“The benefits of shopping at farmers’ markets provide a win-win situation for everyone involved,” said Jordan Lichman, dean of culinary arts and hospitality at Stratford University in Falls Church, Va. “It’s hard to beat being able to find so many great items in one place that are fresh, affordable and grown locally.”
Some of those benefits include the following:
Eating well: More folks could stand to eat more fruits and vegetables, and farmers markets are a great place to stock up on them
Supporting the community: Shopping at local farmers’ markets helps support local farmers. It also keeps money in the community
Saving money: Consumers often cite the cost of produce as a reason they skip purchasing it. Farmers’ markets usually offer high-quality products at affordable prices, including organic produce
Going green: The produce avoids a transport process that can often involve taking food thousands of miles to reach its destination. The fuel savings are better for the planet and keep additional shipping costs out of the food prices
Eating fresh: At a farmers’ market, everything has been freshly picked, so consumers believe they’re getting fresher, more nutritious food. Shoppers might also find many unique items not available in a standard grocery store’s produce department
Learning more: At a farmers’ market, shoppers can speak with the person who grew the food, on topics ranging from the type of fertilizers used to how to prepare a unique item
Teaching kids: Children can often get free samples of fruits or vegetables, and can learn about how farmers’ markets work. Parents can give their kids each a few dollars and let them purchase whatever they want, and then search online for recipes using those items
“Even for those who do not have access to a farmers’ market year-round, it is a wonderful experience to take part in, each summer, when the food is at its freshest,” said Lichman. “If you can get your food straight from the farmer, why would you ever want to go elsewhere?”
Stratford University offers over 30 undergraduate and graduate degrees in areas including culinary arts and hospitality, health sciences, and business administration.
The USDA Farmers Markets report is available at www.ams.usda.gov.