What Makes a Farmers’ Market Great?
As I wrote about last week, August 7 through 13 is National Farmers’ Market Week. National Farmers’ Market Week is officially designated by United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Secretary Tom Vilsack to encourage consumers to visit their local farmers’ market.
Since there are now over 6,100 farmers’ markets throughout the United States, farmers’ markets are one of the easiest ways to not only support locally grown fruits and vegetables, but to support the economic viability of our farmers.
If you have a favorite farmers’ market, why not vote for them in American Farmland Trust’s America’s Favorite Farmers Market contest? This annual contest is designed to “raise national awareness about the importance of buying fresh food from local farms and saving the farmland where it’s grown.”
American Farmland Trust has released the current Top 20 markets in all four (boutique, small, medium and large) categories. Market categories are based on the number of vendors in each market. Check to see if yours is among the leaders, you can even check by state. If not, make sure to spread the word and get your market the support it needs. There’s still time to vote for your favorite since the contest doesn’t end until August 31.
What makes those in the lead so special? As I have written about many times, a local farmers’ market offers the freshest produce around and you will also find dozens of different fruit and vegetable varieties at a single farmers’ market, compared to the two or three varieties typically found at most grocery stores.
For me, one of the best things about a farmers’ market is the sense of community and the relationships that develop. Farmers’ markets are modern day town squares. They serve as a community-gathering place, where you can meet your neighbors and friends to catch up, experience local entertainment, and see work by local artists and craftspeople.
Being LA Farm Girl, not living in a farming community, my local farmers’ market is the only way I can develop a relationship with the wonderful people who grow my food. It also gives me the feeling that I live in a small town, and each week I look forward to seeing both my farmer friends and my friends from throughout the community.
If you aren’t a regular farmers’ market shopper but are thinking you’d like to be, the USDA has a page where you can search for the market nearest you.
Another great resource for finding local farmers’ markets is Local Harvest.
For those in California (like me), there’s a list of certified farmers’ markets provided by the California Federation of Farmers’ Markets. A California certified farmers’ market is the “real deal,” meaning that only farmers who grow what they are certified to grow there can sell there.