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Today's Top News
Farmer's Markets Spur Job Growth, New Report Finds
As the economy limps along, farmer's markets are showing record growth, and that growth could bring thousands of jobs with it.
a dismal week for the U.S. economy featuring debt-ceiling drama in Washington and the threat of a double-dip recession on Wall Street, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) delivered some powerhouse statistics demonstrating the public's demand for healthy, organic food: The number of farmers markets in the country increased 17 percent in the last year. "There's a yearning for the 99 percent of Americans who are no longer connected to the farm to reconnect," Kathleen Merrigan, deputy secretary of the USDA, said
The timing is perfect — this week marks National Farmers Market Week — and comes on the heels of a new report finding that farmers markets could generate thousands of jobs in the U.S.
The 2011 USDA Farmer's Market Directory lists 7,175 farmers markets, and Merrigan says the number is probably even higher because some markets don't self-report. The states with the most markets include California, New York, Michigan, Illinois, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Iowa, Wisconsin, North Carolina and Massachusetts. And, though not on the top 10 list, Alaskan farmers markets increased 46 percent over last year, and Texas, Colorado, and New Mexico were each up 38 percent. As an indication that shoppers are indeed searching for more local, organic food, Merrigan said more than 2 million people have searched the USDA Farmer's Market Directory so far in 2011.
Since the majority of farm subsidies go to industrial farming — USDA dished out nearly $13 billion for commodity-crop insurance and supplemental disaster assistance — the farmers market phenomenon has come about with relatively little government assistance. The irony here is that the U.S. is subsidizing a farming system that ultimately makes us sick and contributes to taxpayer-funded problems like obesity, flooding and hard-to-treat superbug infections linked to factory farming, all of which increase government spending even more.