USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack has officially declared this week, Aug. 7-13, as the 17th annual National Farmers Market Week, highlighting the key role that farmers’ markets play in bringing communities together around agriculture.
Across the country, farmers’ markets are central to many towns and cities. They are community gathering places where America’s food producers build successful businesses and bring fresh, local food to market.
National Institute of Food and Agriculture supports farmers’ market operations and the communities they serve with programs that translate agricultural research to deliver solutions to communities, foster the next generation of agricultural professionals, and encourage healthy eating among underserved communities. NIFA achieves these outcomes through programs such as cooperative Extension, the Beginner Farmer and Rancher Development Program, Community Food Projects, and the Food Insecurity Nutrition Incentive (FINI) program.
Community gardens and farmers’ markets can foster a sense of belonging and create job opportunities in the community. With the help of a $30,000 FINI grant, the Aurora’s Farmers’ Market in Illinois helped local Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) recipients purchase healthier foods through the Fresh First program. All shoppers at the farmers’ market who used their SNAP card to purchase fruits and vegetables received additional funds to buy even more produce each week. The program reached 112 participants last year, the majority of whom were Hispanic, low-income individuals who faced language and transportation barriers and were unfamiliar with locally grown produce.
To overcome these barriers, the Aurora’s Farmers’ Market introduced a bilingual produce vendor and pop-up market. The Aurora’s Farmers’ Market also started a cooking class to teach participants about local produce, educating them on what is grown locally and seasonally available.
Farmers markets are a gathering place where you can buy locally produced food, and at the same time, get to know the farmer and story behind the food you purchase,” said Elanor Starmer, the Administrator of USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service. “These types of markets improve earning potential for farmers and ranchers, building stronger community ties and access to local foods.”
To help farmers market managers across the country promote and celebrate National Farmers Market Week, USDA is sharing online free farmers market related graphics that market managers and others can use to customize posters, emails, websites and other promotional materials. The graphics, along with a short demonstration video, can be found at: www.ams.usda.gov/resources/NFMW
Support for farmers’ markets is just one element of USDA’s broader work to strengthen local and regional food systems in local communities and around the country. This work is coordinated through USDA’s Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food (KYF2) Initiative. Consumers can find local and regional supply chain resources on the newly-revamped KYF2 website and use the KYF2 Compass to locate USDA local food investments in their community.