The newsLINK Group - Farmers' Markets. A Growing Trend

Editorial Library Category: Cities & Towns Topics: Farmers’ Markets Title: Farmers’ Markets: A Growing Trend Author: newsLINK Staff Synopsis: Communities can do a great deal to make sure that the good-for-you food trend continues, whether through farmers’ markets or through food hubs. Policies that support this process can only make a community better and stronger than it was before. Editorial: Farmers’ Markets: A Growing Trend 4064 South Highland Drive, Millcreek, Utah 84124 │ │ (v) 801.676.9722 │ (tf) 855.747.4003 │ (f) 801.742.5803 Editorial Library | © The newsLINK Group LLC 1 According to sources that include the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), which began keeping records about farmers markets in 1994, the number of markets has increased from 1,775 that year to more than 4,385 in 2006. The number was up to 7,864 by 2012. In 2013, the USDA listed 8,144 farmers’ markets in its national directory. In 2014, the number of farmers’ markets was 8,268. Interest didn’t just begin in 1994, however. The trend has been going on for at least the last three decades. And although the number of farmers’ markets appears to be reaching a possible plateau, that doesn’t mean people aren’t interested in farm-fresh food anymore. On the contrary, one National Public Radio (NPR) blog called “the salt” describes the interest in local food through alternatives to farmers’ markets as nothing less than an “explosion.” For example, between 2007 and 2012: The number of food hubs increased 288 percent. Food hubs are local groups that create a bridge between farmers and food-centric businesses. The increase in school districts that have programs to get their food directly from farms is 430 percent. According to some experts, about 30,000 small farmers and small businesses make their living by selling local products at farmers’ markets to more than three million people. Most markets are started either because the farmer has too much produce and needs to find people to sell it to, or people decide they want to buy locally and start looking for someone who can sell them locally grown food. What are the benefits of buying locally? It’s more than just the desire to eat higher-quality, more nutritious, and fresher food. Farmers’ markets are interesting. Grocery stores are mind-numbingly the same. The only thing that changes is that stores tend to periodically move products around, because management knows people will spend more money the longer they stay and the more products they see. At a farmers’ market, on the other hand, you can find a large variety of fruits and vegetables, herbs, honey, nuts, preserves, baked goods, and sometimes additional products such as meat, poultry, cheese, and even crafts. There’s no one template, and no one is playing games to trap you there. It’s an experience instead of a chore. Speaking of experiences, farmers’ markets can also be a lot of fun. Larger ones sometimes have live music and theater and events and games that are great for families with young children. You can have a really memorable day at a farmers’ market. When was the last time you could make that claim about a trip to the grocery store? A good farmers’ market can become a tourist destination. Some tour writers have compiled their lists of the ten best markets in the U.S. Although the idea is to buy local and stay local, the truth is that people will travel to go to a good farmers’ market. Some people will drive at least 20 to 50 miles for the experience. And if someone happens to be in town from farther away, a farmers’ market is an attractive option for tourists who just want to look around and check out the local culture. By supporting local farmers, communities improve their own economy. Money spent at local businesses is more likely to stay local, where money spent at national chains or online is more likely to end up somewhere else. Do you want your own city to thrive? Look for places to buy local. Farmers’ markets are a terrific start. Local food-market efforts can revitalize downtown areas and public spaces. They can be attractive and well-designed, giving people in urban areas a chance to experience what it’s like to see (and eat from) a good garden. Food security is better with local food than with food being grown at a distance. If a transportation problem develops and food cannot be shipped efficiently to