Farmers Markets Put Farmers First
By: Liz Comiskey Posted On: August 1, 2012
For Immediate Release
Contact: Elizabeth Comiskey
August 8, 2012
Farmers Market Coalition Celebrates Farmer-Centric Systems
During National Farmers Market Week
According to the United States Department of Agriculture’s Economic Research Service, farmers receive only 15.8 cents of the average dollar consumers spend on food. Farmers markets are one place where farmers can retain a higher proportion of the food dollar, and earn a fair wage.
United States Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack proclaimed August 5-11, 2012 as National Farmers Market Week. Since 2000, the number of farmers markets has grown over 170%, from 2,863 markets in 2000 to more than 7,800 in 2012. As demand grows for fresh local food, farmers markets are fostering appreciation for agriculture even in the most urban of neighborhoods, and putting farmers in the center of the food system and allowing independently owned family businesses to thrive.
A recent PolicyLink report notes, “Smaller-scale farmers who face high competition from larger, industrialized agriculture can increase their viability by selling their goods at farmers’ markets, where returns are generally 200 to 250 percent higher than what they receive from wholesalers.”
- Delaware’s Historic Lewes Farmers Market in Lewes, Delaware provides scholarships for its farmers to attend conferences to learn sustainable agriculture methods that help protect the Chesapeake Bay watershed. Attending these conferences, according to HLFM scholarship recipient Lisa Garfield, “gives us the opportunity to learn new skills and news ways to become more efficient.”
- The Webb City Farmers Market runs a mentoring program that partners their most experienced growers as well as state extension horticulturists with younger farmers who want to improve quality and production practices. “Last week our inspection team visited three farms and saw, for the first time, drip irrigation in action on those farms”, says Eileen Nichols, Market Manager. “Before starting the mentoring program, they either had no water in the fields or were trying to use small sprinklers.”
- Starting as an ad hoc group of producers selling out of pickup trucks at gas stations, the Columbia Farmers Market in Missouri is still a vendor run market with estimated annual sales of almost 1 million dollars for their 82 producers.
- All farm products sold at the Morgantown Farmers Market in West Virginia, governed by the local growers themselves, are grown within 50 miles, ensuring that customers are truly supporting local farm families.
- The Nowata County Farmers Market offers workshops on topics like raising poultry and diversifying farm product lines during market season that provide business development assistance to producers in the community.
Farmer-centric policies and programs like these ensure a level playing field for local growers, build trust with shoppers, and help preserve the rural landscapes in neighboring counties.
“Many farmers today have little time to market their crops,” says Caroline Todd, Director of the Columbia Farmers Market in Missouri and volunteer board member of the national Farmers Market Coalition. “Farmers markets are one place where farmers have opportunities to tell their story, face-to-face, with the people who eat their food. During National Farmers Market Week, FMC encouragess all Americans to meet a farmer and listen to their stories of how food makes it from seed to plate.”
Seven Days, Seven Ways to Celebrate Farmers Market Impacts
- Sunday, August 5th: Farmers markets and community education
Innovative partnerships that allow markets to serve as hubs of information
- Monday, August 6th: Farmers markets and public health
Promoting good nutrition and healthful habits
- Tuesday, August 7th: Farmers markets as economic engines
Business incubation, job development, and local spending
- Wednesday, August 8th: Farmers at the center of the system
Governance and policies that put farmers first
- Thursday, August 9th:Farmers markets and food equity
Improving access to healthful foods in underserved neighborhoods
- Friday, August 10th: Farmers markets and civic engagement
Growing social capital and engaging volunteers
- Saturday, August 11th: Farmers markets and rural renewal
Supporting agricultural diversity and farm viability, while inspiring a new generation of producers
The Farmers Market Coalition (FMC) is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit dedicated to strengthening farmers markets for the benefit of farmers, consumers, and communities.
Learn more at FarmersMarketCoalition.org.