WASHINGTON, Aug. 4, 2013 – The United States has added more than 3,000 farmers markets in the past five years, Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) Administrator Anne Alonzo Saturday announced at the launch of National Farmers Market Week.

USDA data shows 5,000 farmers market existed in 2008 – there are 8,144 today.

The administrator was on hand for the official launch in the Columbia Heights neighborhood of Washington, D.C., where she noted that markets have become important “social events” for their communities, as well as the “public faces of agriculture.”

Markets “bring together a whole community on Saturday morning,” she told a small crowd that had gathered despite the cloudy day.

USDA’s farmers market push is nothing new – in 2012, then-Deputy Undersecretary Kathleen Merrigan spearheaded a $4 million initiative that would allow farmers markets to accept SNAP, or food stamp, dollars. Farmers markets keep money in the local economy by supporting area farmers, USDA reasoned, and underserved communities needed expanded access to fresh fruits and vegetables.

It’s a rationale Picket Slater Harrington, executive director of the marketplace, embraced during his own prepared remarks on Saturday.

“At the core of the Columbia Heights community marketplace is community health,” he said. He also noted that the farmers market allows sometimes-isolated producers a way to establish a “connection back to customers.”

USDA also released Saturday its National Farmers Market Directory, which is voluntarily updated by market managers and published online.

The Directory will “help connect farmers, consumers, communities, and businesses around the country,” Secretary Tom Vilsack said in a statement.


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