WASHINGTON, Aug. 3, 2012 – Agriculture Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan today announced a 9.6 percent increase in the National Farmers Market Directory, which she says is a good indicator of the upward trend in consumers buying local food. USDA’s directory, a database published online at farmersmarkets.usda.gov, identifies 7,864 farmers markets operating throughout the United States. The information collected annually in the directory is self-reported data provided voluntarily by farmers market managers. Last year, USDA's directory listed 7,175 markets.
“I’m hoping that consumers across the countryside understand now more than ever it’s important to support your farmer,” Merrigan said, regarding the severe drought conditions. “I believe this drought, albeit very severe and tough for producers, is not going to change the trajectory we’re on with farmers markets because people want to buy local.”
The top states, in terms of the number of markets reported in the directory, include California (827 markets), New York (647 markets), Massachusetts (313 markets), Michigan (311 markets), Wisconsin (298 markets), Illinois (292 markets), Ohio (264 markets), Pennsylvania (254 markets), Virginia and Iowa (tied with 227 markets) and North Carolina (202 markets). Together they account for nearly half (49 percent) of the farmers markets listed in the 2012 directory.
Geographic regions of the mid-Atlantic, the Northeast and the Southeast saw the most growth in their listings. Those regions reported 15.8, 14.4 and 13.1 percent more markets, respectively.
“We need to grow the number of farmers in this country with the aging of the American farmer,” Merrigan said. “One way to do that is to make sure we have stepping stones into agriculture and the farmers market is one way to do that.”
USDA's Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) outfits farmers markets with the ability to accept food stamps, or Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) cards. FNS announced $4 million in funding to equip farmers' markets with the technology. Currently, more than 2,500 farmers markets use EBT. Merrigan said by end of year, she believes close to two-thirds of all farmers markets will be EBT-enabled.
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