As the opening of this season’s USDA Farmers Market occurs today in Washington, D.C., Agriculture Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan announced approximately $10 million is available to expand direct marketing opportunities and help to eliminate food deserts and increase food access in low-income communities in the United States through the Farmers Market Promotion Program (FMPP). By funding projects that increase access to healthy and affordable food while expanding market opportunities for farmers and ranchers, the Farmers Market Promotion Program continues to contribute to the economic and physical health of communities around the country.
Such contributions are making a difference in the heart of the Mississippi Delta, where a small farmers market in Cleveland, Mississippi, is bringing together a committed group of volunteers and community members to do just that. With a grant from the Farmers Market Promotion Program (FMPP), the Cleveland Farmers Market is one of many FMPP projects that are increasing food access and economic opportunities across America, frequently in neighborhoods that are underserved and low-income. Coordinated by the Center for Community and Economic Development at Delta State University, the Cleveland Farmers Market project has developed a market garden on 2 donated acres and added high-tunnel production. The project is also teaching students in production skills and entrepreneurship, and providing community members with freezing, canning, and pickling techniques to preserve the harvest for year-round healthy eating. Upgrades to market equipment and promotions supported by FMPP, along with increased production, have drawn in more vendors (up 57 percent), more customers (up 44 percent), and expanded the market season on both ends (spring and fall).
With the focus on food deserts and increased access at USDA, the Farmers Market Promotion Program will prioritize FY2011 funding of projects, like the Cleveland Farmers Market, that are making a difference in rural and urban food deserts and low-income areas. To find out more about the Farmers Market Promotion Program and how you can apply, see the FMPP Notice of Funds Availability, and be sure to visit the FMPP website for the FY2011 Guidelines and instructions, application forms, and other tools.
More information on FMPP here: