I love to visit a Farmers Market! There is nothing more delightful than booth after booth of delicious, fresh vegetables, scrumptious fruits, local honey and gorgeous plants and flowers. Every vendor has a unique flair to their product: perfectly stacked and perfectly placed with creative signs and colorful flair. Having enjoyed the scrumptious offerings of our local Farmer’s Market, I was delighted to discover that National Farmers’ Market Week starts today, August 4, and continues though Saturday, August 10.
This week we celebrate and honor our local farmers and the healthy, locally grown food they provide to our region. The number of farmers’ markets in the US has grown by 67% since 2008! Additionally, the “direct sales” of food from farmer to individual has increased by over 50% from 2002 to 2007.
The USDA aims to encourage the use of farmers’ markets and make them more accessible to the public through many new efforts.
For example, they are currently helping farmers accept SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) funds, also known as food stamps, by assisting with the purchase and operation the point-of-sale equipment needed for these transactions. As of 2012, over 3,800 local farmers’ markets accept SNAP and the USDA is looking to increase this number in the coming years.
Another outreach effort includes a “Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food” program that provides a number of services, not only to individuals, but also to farmers and communities. Through their portal on the USDA website, you can find your local farmers’ markets, the products they have available and the types of payments they accept. You can access a fun, family-engaging tool called Choose My Plate that offers healthy eating tips, menus, recipes, and food plans.
Also on the “Know Your Farmer” website, there is an amazing tool to search for food deserts across the country. Never heard of a food desert? These are areas in which there is limited to no access to healthy and affordable food. In the Raleigh-Durham area, we have quite a few food deserts, shockingly. The areas in green indicate that “a significant number of residents are 1 mile (urban areas) or 10 miles (rural) from the nearest supermarket. So, the impact of our local farmers’ markets is incredibly important in our region to help supplement the food needs of our under-served populations.
If you don’t have time to visit a farmers market this week (or in general,) consider signing up for a locally grown produce delivery service such as Doorstep Produce or The Produce Box. You’ll get a weekly (or bi-weekly) box of wonderfully fresh, seasonal produce from our local farmers.
You can get the kids involved this week by learning more about farmers markets through a game on the “My American Farm” website called the Farmers Market Challenge. The game not only exposes youngsters to the offering of local markets, but also helps boost math skills!
So, make it a point to visit a local farmer’s market this week, or in the coming weeks… Let’s support our vital agricultural community – it’s healthy for you, and healthy for our local economy!
Check out what’s happening at these local markets via their Facebook pages:
View more of my photos of our local farmers market: http://www.flickr.com/photos/RaleighStateFarmersMarket