This week, August 3 through August 9, 2014, marks the annual National Farmers’ Market Week (NFMW), designated by Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. While each year, more and more people shop at their local farmers’ market, many still do not. In fact, according to a recent study of 1,200 shoppers, Target and Walmart rank well above farmers markets in terms of most popular places to buy food, outside of traditional grocery stores.
Designed to raise awareness and support for local markets, NFMW celebrates the thousands of farmers’ markets throughout the country and all the people that help make them possible. “Farmers markets play a key role in developing local and regional food systems that support family farms, and help grow rural economies,” says Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack in a USDA press release. “They bring communities together, connecting cities with the farms that support them and provide Americans across the country with fresh, healthy food.”
As I have written before, there are many benefits for shoppers. But, there are just as many for the market and community that it is located in. Here are some reasons that you should commit to shopping at your neighborhood’s next farmers’ market.
Many local farmers struggle to stay in business, and they need community support. Shopping at the farmers’ market gives them this support, and allows them to sustain their business. Farmers selling directly to consumers cut out the middleman, which gives farmers a better, more fair price for their food. At the same time, consumers often get a better deal than they do at the supermarket.
Shopping at your farmers’ market supports local food systems and builds sustainable communities. When you buy directly from farmers, you are taking part in a vanishing tradition, the connection and the relationship between the grower and the consumer that was once so common. This also allows you to reconnect with the seasons, with nature, and to learn all about what it takes to farm and agriculture in general.
Farmers’ markets keep the money in your local economy, because it is spent closer to your own neighborhood, instead of being sent somewhere far from the community or even across the world.
By shopping at a farmer’s markets, you are doing your part to support crop diversity. Farmers grow more varieties (many of which are heirloom varieties, passed down from generation to generation), to ensure a longer season of harvest. You will be doing your part to help preserve this genetic diversity. A benefit to shoppers is that farmers also try out new varieties at the farmers’ market. This means you get to be the first to taste them.
A community that has a farmers market is healthier. You are doing your part to improve community health by keeping the market going and ensuring that there’s a source of healthy, affordable food in your own area.