The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) on Saturday celebrated National Farmers Market Week with a kick-off event at the Columbia Heights Farmers Market in Washington, D.C.
Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced that 8,144 farmers markets are now listed in USDA's National Farmers Market Directory, up from about 5,000 in 2008. The Directory, voluntarily updated by farmers market managers, state departments of agriculture, marketing associations, and others, is published online at farmersmarkets.usda.gov. This year, the Directory has been upgraded to include a new Application Programming Interface (API) that improves customer access to farmers market data.
"Farmers markets are an important public face for agriculture and a critical part of our nation's food system," said Secretary Tom Vilsack. "They provide benefits not only to the farmers looking for important income opportunities, but also help fill a growing consumer demand for fresh, healthy foods. In recent years, USDA has stepped up efforts to support local and regional marketing opportunities for producers, including a modernized Farmer's Market Directory to help connect farmers, consumers, communities, and businesses around the country."
USDA's Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) Administrator Anne Alonzo spoke at Saturday's farmers market celebration at Washington, D.C.'s Columbia Heights Marketplace announcing the newly updated National Farmers Market Directory information.
"Due to consumer demand for local food we are seeing an increase in the diversity of market offerings, and more participation from small businesses and farms," Agricultural Marketing Service Administrator Anne Alonzo said. "This year we are focusing on the sustainability and maturity of farmers markets- keeping new and old markets thriving and improving. Farmers markets around the country continue to be popular social events for families and communities."
Local food and direct marketing opportunities, including farmers markets, are one of the fastest growing segments of agriculture. According to the latest Census of Agriculture, direct sales of food products from farmers to individual consumers rose by nearly 50 percent between 2002 and 2007. Worth an estimated $1 billion in 2005, local food sales grew to $4.8 billion in 2007 and nearly $7 billion last year, according to industry estimates. For nearby businesses in major cities across the U.S., having a farmers market nearby means an average increase in sales of anywhere from $19,000 to $15 million (according to a Marketumbrella research paper published in 2012).
The 10 top states account for over half (51.3 percent) of all markets listed in the Directory database:
1. California (759)
2. New York (637)
3. Illinois (336)
4. Michigan (331)
5. Ohio (300)
6. Pennsylvania (290)
7. Massachusetts (289)
8. Wisconsin 286)
9. Missouri (New to list in 2013 -- in 2012 was ranked 19th) (246)
9. Virginia (tie) (246)
10. Iowa (229)
10. North Carolina (tie) (229)
Geographic regions like the mid-Atlantic (Delaware, the District of Columbia, Maryland, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Virginia and West Virginia) increased to a 11.98 percent market share in 2013, from a 11.65 percent in 2012, the Northeast (Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Rhode Island and Vermont) increased to a 29.11 percent market share in 2013, from a 27.48 percent share in 2012, and the Southeast region (Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina and Tennessee) increased to a 5.03 percent market share in 2013, from a 4.79 percent share in 2012.
USDA has taken several steps to support direct marketing farmers as part of the Department's commitment to support local and regional food systems, and increase consumer access to fresh, healthy food in communities across the country. For example:
- The USDA launched a new API for the National Farmers Market Directory in May which helps consumers locate farmers markets nearby. APIs enable programmers to interact directly with an open data source to work with real-time data--rather than a static data export that can become immediately out of date. The development is part of USDA's commitment to expanding opportunities for our local farmers markets and small businesses.
- USDA's Food and Nutrition Service (FNS), has outfitted more farmers markets with the ability to accept SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program), to improve access to fresh produce and healthy foods by SNAP recipients. USDA recently announced $4 million dollars in available funding to help farmers markets and direct marketing farmers purchase and operate wireless point-of-sale equipment. Currently, over 3,800 farmers markets are authorized to accept SNAP in FY 2012, and farmers markets generate over $16 million in SNAP sales.
- USDA's Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food initiative serves the growing local and regional market segment. This Initiative coordinates and strengthens USDA's work on local and regional food systems.
Many markets will host fun activities to celebrate National Farmers Market Week, including pie contests, festivals, cooking demonstrations, events for kids, raffle drawings and giveaways. USDA officials will visit markets around the country between Aug. 4 and Aug. 10, to honor growers and commemorate National Farmers Market Week.
The USDA National Farmers Market Directory is available at farmersmarkets.usda.gov. Users can search this year's enhanced directory for farmers markets based on location, available products, and types of payment accepted, including participation in federal nutrition programs such as SNAP and WIC. Farmers markets that participate in federal nutrition program improve access to healthy food in underserved communities across the country.