Cross-Posted from the Let’s Move! Blog
Have you ever wanted fresh, local produce but didn’t know how to find the nearest farmers market? The USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) makes it easy with the National Farmers Market search engine, which lists more than 6,100 markets across the nation. Markets can be searched by name, city, zip code, and several other keyword fields.
The search engine is a great tool for local growers and sellers, as market managers can provide the public with important information like hours of operations, acceptable forms of payment, or programs supported such as the Women, Infants and Children (WIC) or the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). Consumers can use the tool to become more informed shoppers by searching for locations, product availability and payment options.
The USDA believes that farmers markets help increase access to fresh fruits and vegetables and provide economic opportunities for producers of all sizes. In recent years, the number of farmers markets has continued to increase, showing their popularity with consumers and a potential source of economic prosperity for producers. In 2010, the USDA counted 6,132 farmers markets, which was a 16% increase from 2009. The Department has seen a dramatic increase in the number of markets since it first started keeping statistics in 1994 when only 1,755 were registered.
Secretary Vilsack sees this continued interest in farmers markets as an opportunity to connect consumers with the farmers who produce their food. Through initiatives like Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food (KYF2), consumers learn about the people who produce their food and the benefits of having a healthy diet. Greater education and access to farmers markets will also help rural areas and others experiencing economic difficulties keep vital resources in their communities.
Counting the number of farmers markets in the U.S. is just one of the ways that USDA supports farmers markets and other local food ventures. Among other things, the department also offers Farmers Market Promotion Program (FMPP) grants to help create or improve markets and provides guidelines to help market managers and producers.
But our commitment doesn’t stop there and we remain dedicated to assisting consumers and producers across the country. It is our goal to increase access to fresh produce and farm products for all Americans so that they can enjoy the fruits our land. In turn, our farmers and ranchers can continue their work as stewards of the land and harness new economic opportunities through expanded markets. Ultimately this is one more step in strengthening the agricultural sector and part of our comprehensive approach to rebuilding and revitalizing rural America.