The local food movement went national in one respect 16 years ago with the first National Farmer’s Market week. Today is the final day of this year’s week (August 2-8, 2015) which once again shines a spotlight on the importance of fresh, local produce to all healthy communities.
Farmer’s markets have grown immensely in abundance and popularity in recent years, with an estimated 8,200 markets across the country now—a 76-percent increase since 2008.
We’ll give you five good reasons we’re celebrating farmers markets today and every week!
Support Local Farmers and Rural Economic Growth
U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack has identified farmers markets and strengthening local food systems as one of the four pillars of USDA’s commitment to rural economic development and job creation. A 2014 study looked at how community-oriented farms contributed to agricultural and regional economic growth. It found that for every one dollar increase in the sales average of CFA (community focused agriculture), personal income rose by 22 cents over the course of five years.
Access to Healthy Food for Lower Income Families
In May the USDA announced grants to allow more farmers markets to support lower-income families. This will allow more than 6,400 farmer’s markets and direct marketing farms to accept Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits as payment for fresh produce and other locally sourced wholesome food.
According to an article in Farmers Market Coalition,
The Farmers Market SNAP Support Grants will range from $15,000 to $250,000 and must be designed to increase SNAP client accessibility and participation at farmers markets, and support the establishment, expansion, and promotion of SNAP EBT services at farmers markets.”
Protect the Environment
If the food you eat is not locally sourced or from a farmers market, then chances are it has traveled a great distance (an average of 1,500 miles) to get to your dinner table. This type of long-distance shipping uses up great quantities of natural resources including fossil fuels, which contributes to air pollution and global warming. Likewise, preparing the food for long-distance travel requires extra packaging which in turn becomes trash in our landfills.
An Article in CUESA.org explains,
Conventional agriculture also uses many more resources than sustainable agriculture and pollutes water, land, and air with toxic agricultural by-products. Food at the farmers market is transported shorter distances and is generally grown using methods that minimize the impact on the earth.”
Support Humane Treatment of Livestock
Unlike the mysterious origins surrounding so many of the products found at grocery store chains, the farmers market offers up meat, cheese, and eggs from animals that have (very likely) been treated with more respect. These markets cut out the middleman so to speak, allowing a relationship between the farmer and the consumer. If you have a question about whether or not your meat was raised without hormones or antibiotics, or if it was allowed to graze on green pastures, you can look your local cattle farmer in the eye and ask him or her yourself! In general you will find that these smaller farms provide much better living conditions for their animals without unnecessary abuse and unnatural interference.
Connect with Your community
Farmers markets have the rare ability to bring urban and rural communities together by creating an arena where the public is able to purchase directly from the vendors themselves. In a world where we are all stuck behind our smart phones and computers, Michael Pollan has referred to farmers markets as “the new public square.” In fact, studies have suggested that people are as much as 10 times more likely to speak to one another at markets rather than grocery stores. They provide the rare opportunity for people to understand where their food comes from while connecting with their neighbors and the people who grow it.
Image via Flickr
10 Reasons to Support Farmers Markets via cuesa.org
USDA Announces Grants to Enable More Farmers Markets to Serve Low-Income Families via Farmers Market Coalition
Perspectives: Farmers Markets via Nourish