WASHINGTON, Dec. 16– USDA announced that the number of winter farmers markets is increasing. According to the updated National Farmers Market Directory, since 2010, the number of winter markets has increased 38 percent, from 886 to 1,225. These winter markets also account for nearly 17 percent of the nation's 7,222 operating farmers markets (Note: The reported number of farmers markets has been updated since August 2011).

"Consumers are looking for more ways to buy locally grown food throughout the year," Agriculture Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan said. "Through winter markets, American farmers are able to meet this need and bring in additional income to support their families and businesses."

Farmers markets operating at least once between November and March are considered winter farmers markets. The top 10 states for these markets are:

State # of Winter Markets in 2011 # of Winter Markets in 2010

1. New York 180 152

2. California 153 137

3. Pennsylvania 78 35

4. North Carolina 73 53

5. Ohio 50 34

6. Maryland 48 30

7. Florida 46 31

8. Massachusetts 43 30

9. Virginia* 40 21

10. Michigan* 33 19

The expanded adoption of hoop house technology, which has enabled many smaller growers to extend their production seasons at low cost, has been a contributing factor to the growth of winter farmers markets. Hoop houses allow growers to produce locally-grown products for longer time periods and in colder climates.

* New to the top 10 list.


For more news, go to www.agri-pulse.com