Farmers markets are hot, new USDA data shows, boasting more than 8,200 entries in the latest version of the agency's National Farmers Market Directory – a 76% increase since 2008.
"Farmers markets play an extremely important role for both farmers and consumers," commented USDA Agricultural Marketing Service Administrator Anne Alonzo. "They bring urban and rural communities together while creating economic growth and increasing access to fresh, healthy foods."
Alonzo made the announcements at the Dane County Farmers Market in Madison, Wis., the country's largest producer-only market, where she kicked off the 15th annual National Farmers Market Week. The Farmers Market week observance continues through Aug. 9, 2014.
The USDA National Farmers Market Directory provides information about U.S. farmers market locations, directions, operating times, product offerings and other details. The data is collected via voluntary self-reporting by operating farmers market managers and is searchable by zip code, product mix, and other criteria.
Alonzo said the National Farmers Market Directory numbers reflect the continued importance of farmers markets to American agriculture. According to USDA, it receives over two million hits annually.
Additional farmers market documents
Also during her address in Wisconsin, Alonzo announced that AMS is developing three new local food directories that will expand USDA's support for local and regional foods by providing easy access to the most current information about the local food market.
New additions will include:
USDA's National Community-Supported Agriculture Enterprise Directory : A CSA is a farm or network/association of multiple farms that offer consumers regular deliveries of locally-grown farm products during one or more harvest season(s) on a subscription or membership basis.
USDA's National Food Hub Directory: A Food Hub is a business or organization that actively manages the aggregation, distribution, and marketing of source-identified food products to multiple buyers from multiple producers, primarily local and regional producers, to strengthen the ability of these producers to satisfy local and regional wholesale, retail, and institutional demand.
USDA's National On-Farm Market Directory: An On-Farm Market is a farm market managed by a single farm operator that sells agricultural and/or horticultural products directly to consumers from a location on their farm property or on property adjacent to that farm.
USDA invites local food business owners who fall within these categories to list their operational details in the new CSA, on-farm market and food hub directories. These new directories will be available online early in 2015, giving potential customers, business partners, and community planners easy access to the most current information about different sources of local foods, USDA says.
More Farmers Market Directory highlights
According to USDA's 2014 National Farmers Market Directory, the states with the most farmers markets reported are California (764 markets), New York (638 markets), Michigan (339 markets), Ohio (311 markets), Illinois (309 markets), Massachusetts (306 markets), Pennsylvania (297 markets), Wisconsin (295 markets), Virginia (249 markets), and Missouri (245 markets).
All geographic regions saw increases in their market listings, with the most growth in the South.
The 10 states with the biggest increases in the numbers of farmers markets include Tennessee, Louisiana, Texas, Hawaii, Massachusetts, Arkansas, North Carolina, Montana, Florida and Nebraska.
Five of these states – Tennessee, Louisiana, Texas, Arkansas, and North Carolina – are part of USDA's StrikeForce for Rural Growth and Opportunity, where USDA has increased investment in rural communities through intensive outreach and stronger partnerships.