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USDA Initiatives, Grassroots Efforts Harvest Increase in Farmers Markets

FreshFarm Market, by the White House

(This is cross-posted from Examiner.com)

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced October 2 that the number of farmers markets in the United States is up more than 13 percent from just a year ago. The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Farmers Market Directory now lists almost 5,300 markets nationwide, up from 4,685 reported in 2008. That’s an increase of about 600 new markets, or more than 10 new markets a week.

“Farmers markets assure that consumers have easier access to local fruits and vegetables and this growth demonstrates incredible interest consumers have in purchasing from local producers,” said Vilsack in a press release.

The announcement went on to mention the USDA’s Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food initiative, whose mission recognizes the distance between Americans and the farmers who produce their food, and ensures the people that “we are marshalling resources from across USDA to help create the link between local production and local consumption.” The news release also mentions its own farmers market that the agency has hosted for the past 14 years, and a guide to setting up a new market on federal property.

The content of this announcement rang merrily in the ears of many a local foods enthusiast. Though a bit quieter, the order of the statement also hums an encouraging tune. Look at it again; First comes the grassroots, and then the federal initiative.

That 600-market increase surely has something to do with federal initiatives, but conscious consumers did their part, too. As long as individuals and organizations reach out to farmers, connect people of all income brackets to local food, and show up on market day, the more markets will continue to climb.

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