WASHINGTON — The U.S. Department of Agriculture recently
celebrated National Farmers Market Week with a kickoff event at the Columbia
Heights Farmers Market in Washington.
Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced that 8,144
farmers markets now are listed in the USDA’s National Farmers Market
Directory, up from about 5,000 in 2008.
The directory, voluntarily updated by farmers market
managers, state departments of agriculture, marketing associations and others,
is published online at www. farmersmarkets.usda.gov . This year,
the directory has been upgraded to include a new Application Programming
Interface that improves customer access to farmers market data.
“Farmers markets are an important public face for
agriculture and a critical part of our nation’s food system,” Vilsack said.
“They provide benefits not only to the farmers looking for important income
opportunities, but also help fill a growing consumer demand for fresh, healthy
“In recent years, USDA has stepped up efforts to support
local and regional marketing opportunities for producers, including a modernized
farmers market directory to help connect farmers, consumers, communities and
businesses around the country.”
Anne Alonzo, administrator of the USDA’s Agricultural
Marketing Service, announced the newly updated National Farmers Market Directory information.
“Due to consumer demand for local food, we are seeing an
increase in the diversity of market offerings and more participation from small
businesses and farms,” she said. “This year, we are focusing on the
sustainability and maturity of farmers markets — keeping new and old markets
thriving and improving. Farmers markets around the country continue to be
popular social events for families and communities.”
Local food and direct marketing opportunities, including
farmers markets, are one of the fastest-growing segments of agriculture.
According to the latest Census of Agriculture, direct sales of food products
from farmers to individual consumers rose by nearly 50 percent between 2002 and
Worth an estimated $1 billion in 2005, local food sales grew
to $4.8 billion in 2007 and nearly $7 billion last year, according to industry
estimates. For nearby businesses in major cities across the U.S., having a
farmers market nearby means an average increase in sales of anywhere from
$19,000 to $15 million, according to a Marketumbrella research paper published
The 10 top states accounting for more than half — 51.3
percent — of all markets listed in the directory database are: California, 759;
New York, 637; Illinois, 336; Michigan, 331; Ohio, 300; Pennsylvania, 290;
Massachusetts, 289; Wisconsin, 286; Missouri and Virginia, tied at 246; and Iowa
and North Carolina, tied at 229.
Among geographic regions, the mid-Atlantic — Delaware, the
District of Columbia, Maryland, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Virginia and West
Virginia — increased to a 11.98 percent market share in 2013, from a 11.65
percent in 2012; the Northeast — Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New
Hampshire, New York, Rhode Island and Vermont — increased to a 29.11 percent
market share in 2013, from a 27.48 percent share in 2012; and the Southeast
region — Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, North Carolina, South
Carolina and Tennessee — increased to a 5.03 percent market share in 2013, from
a 4.79 percent share in 2012.
The USDA has taken several steps to support direct marketing
farmers as part of the department’s commitment to support local and regional
food systems and increase consumer access to fresh, healthy food in communities
across the country. For example:
* The USDA launched a new API for the National Farmers Market Directory in May
which helps consumers locate farmers markets nearby. APIs enable programmers to
interact directly with an open data source to work with real-time data — rather
than a static data export that can become immediately out of date.
The development is part of the USDA’s commitment to
expanding opportunities for local farmers markets and small businesses;
* The USDA’s Food and Nutrition
Service has outfitted more farmers markets with the ability to accept
Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program to improve access to
fresh produce and healthy foods by SNAP recipients.
The USDA recently announced $4 million in available funding to
help farmers markets and direct marketing farmers purchase and operate wireless
point-of-sale equipment. Currently, more than 3,800 farmers markets are
authorized to accept SNAP in fiscal year 2012, and farmers markets generate more
than $16 million in SNAP sales; and
* The USDA’s Know Your Farmer,
Know Your Food initiative serves the growing local and regional
market segment. This Initiative coordinates and strengthens the USDA’s work on
local and regional food systems.