If you take a satisfying stroll through your local farmers’ market regularly, then you probably are not surprised that the number of farmer’s markets in the U.S. has increased by 125% since 2004, and 370% in the last 20 years, according to the latest update from the USDA Economic Research Service (ERS).
We are excited about what this ERS press release implies:
The growing number of farmers’ markets could reflect increased demand for local and regional food products based on consumer perceptions of their freshness and quality, support for the local economy, environmental benefits, or other perceived attributes relative to food from traditional marketing channels."
Let’s remove “could” and “perceived” from that analysis and go ahead and admit that short of growing it yourself, farmer’s markets are one of the best ways to get your food. Mark Bittman unabashedly says so in a recent op-ed:
What’s inarguable is that farmers’ markets offer food of superior quality, help support smaller-scale farmers in an environment that’s more and more difficult for anyone not doing industrial-scale agriculture, and increase the amount of local food available to shoppers. All of this despite still-inadequate recognition and lack of government support."
Bittman goes on to discuss farmer’s market pricing (mostly justifiable, because flavor and freshness, he explains, are what you are paying for ), farmer economics, and ways in which policy could be improved to be more supportive of this growing trend.
If you want to learn more about farmers’ markets in your area, Smithsonian Magazine recently released a really cool resource that can help. An interactive map allows you to type in your zip code to find markets in your area as well as understand how accessible the markets are to your community by walking and driving. They report the national accessibility trends too:
In large cities, some residents are within a 15-minute drive of more than 60 markets. Currently, 78% of the nation's driving population is within a 15-minute drive of one or more farmers' markets. Currently, 4.5% of the nation's population is within a 10-minute walking distance of one or more farmers' markets."
While walking access is clearly something that could be improved, and farmers’ markets could certainly use more state and federal support, we are glad to know that trends in buying local and more sustainably are increasing rapidly.
PHOTO: photographer Phil Roeder
- Number of U.S. farmers’ markets continues to rise via USDA Economic Research Service
- Where is Your Closest Farmers’ Market? via Smithsonian Magazine
- Farmers’ Market Values via NY Times
Read all articles by Damon Cory-Watson