Friday, August 10, 2012
From the Dept of Good News: Farmers’ Markets Keep Growing
civileats.com: The worst drought since the 1950s continues to wreak havoc on America’s bread basket, shriveling up commodity corn and soybean crops and driving up food prices. But there is heartening news from the local agricultural sector: Farmers’ markets are booming. Last week, the USDA released its annual update of the National Farmers Market Directory, which is now 7,864 markets strong. It’s a 9.6 percent uptick since last year, and more than double the number of markets since 2004. The latest tally was announced in preparation of National Farmers Market Week, which started Sunday and has been formally acknowledged by the US Agriculture Secretary since 1996. As stated in a proclamation signed by Secretary Tom Vilsack, one of the goals of the week-long commemoration is “to further awareness … of the many contributions farmers make to daily life in America…” In addition to California (which far surpasses any other state with 827 markets), New York, Massachusetts, Michigan and Wisconsin are the five most farmers’ market-centric states. The mid-Atlantic region (Delaware, DC, Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia, New Jersey and Pennsylvania) has experienced the most growth – a combined 15.8 percent increase of markets since last year. Over the years, farmers’ markets have been criticized for being exclusive dens of foodie-dom, but access is changing, albeit slowly. As of last year, less than one-fourth of all farmers’ markets were equipped with wireless EBT technology to redeem SNAP/food stamp vouchers. A $4 million USDA grant issued in May aims to make more markets SNAP voucher-friendly.