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Farmers Markets — Getting Food from the Source

Enthusiasts point to a crop of good reasons to support farmers markets — everything from good health and good deals to the good of the community.

Farmers markets have been growing in popularity as more producers and consumers realize that buying food directly from the source can be beneficial for both parties.

Cory Schreiber, Culinary Instructor at The Art Institute of Portland, says farmers markets are definitely on the rise.

“Consumers are trusting farmers in what they say and what they offer. We identify with the farmer and with the product,” he says. “We’re connected to it. We’re more directly involved with the experience.”

Statistics from the U.S. Department of Agriculture support the idea that farmers markets have grown in popularity. A USDA fact sheet says that the number of farmers markets in the US has increased from 1,755 in 1994 to 5,274 in mid-2009. And the Farmers Market Coalition reports that $1.2 billion in food was sold directly from farmers to consumers.

According to the USDA: “Farmers markets allow consumers to have access to locally grown, farm fresh produce, enables farmers the opportunity to develop a personal relationship with their customers, and cultivate consumer loyalty with the farmers who grow the produce.”

Often farmers markets provide produce from the organic food business. Bonnie Dehn is President of the Central Minnesota Vegetable Growers Association and a family farmer. She has 35 acres of land dedicated to organic farming. Much of the produce at farmers markets is grown without the use of pesticides or chemicals, she says.

Farmers markets come in all shapes and sizes – in parking lots, parks, and in warehouses. Because locally grown foods don’t have to travel as far when a farmer takes them to market, consumers get the opportunity to eat local, potentially helping the environment by using less fuel to get to other outlets. Just as important – buyers get fresher food.

“Farmers markets are important for consumers to be able to get the freshest possible produce from the people that grew it,” says Erin Barnett, Director of, a national directory of farms and farmers markets that sell to the public.

Dehn says consumers also can benefit by paying less at farmers markets then they might at a grocery store chain.

“People need and want a fresh food supply and still get charged a fair price,” she says. “The problem with some of the grocery stores is that they have a tendency to dominate the food chain for grocery distribution. They can charge whatever they want and the people have to pay it.”

There are differences among the vendors at farmers markets. Some are not “true” farmers and instead buy produce in bulk just to sell at the markets, says Dehn. The best way to learn about the vendor and their goods is to talk to them and ask questions, Barnett says.

“They’re excited to talk about what they’ve been growing and it’s a great way to learn about the seasonality and foods and new ways to cook things,” she adds.

Weather is the other large challenge for farmers selling at a market.

“You’re at the total whim of Mother Nature,” Dehn says.

But the environment for farmers markets in many communities is only getting better.

“What we hear is that in some parts of the country there are many more communities and neighborhoods wanting (farmers markets) to come there than there are farmers,” Barnett says.

The fun factor in farmers markets shouldn’t be underestimated. Dehn, a fourth generation farmers market vendor, encourages consumers to interact with the vendors.

“Farmers have an optimistic attitude that spreads and it’s almost contagious,” she says. “You walk away with an armload of fresh food and you feel good about it.”

Read the entire article HERE

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