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Putting Farmers First: Farmers Market Coalition Celebrates Farmer-Centric Systems During National Farmers Market Week
WASHINGTON - August 10 - According to the United States Department of Agriculture’s Economic Research Service, farmers receive only 15.8 cents of the average dollar consumers spend on food. Farmers markets are one place where farmers can retain a higher proportion of the food dollar, and earn a fair wage.
United States Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack proclaimed August 7-13, 2011 as National Farmers Market Week. Since 2000, the number of farmers markets has grown 150%, from 2,863 markets in 2000 to 7,175in 2011. As demand grows for fresh local food, farmers markets are fostering appreciation for agriculture even in the most urban of neighborhoods, and putting farmers in the center of the food system and allowing independently owned family businesses to thrive.
A recent PolicyLink report notes, “Smaller-scale farmers who face high competition from larger, industrialized agriculture can increase their viability by selling their goods at farmers’ markets, where returns are generally 200 to 250 percent higher than what they receive from wholesalers.”
· The Historic Lewes Farmers Market in Lewes, Delaware provides scholarships for its farmers to learn sustainable agriculture methods that help protect the Chesapeake Bay watershed.
- 80% of the 101 producers selling at the Lawrence Farmers Market in Lawrence, Kansas are farmers. The market policy states that all products must be produced or grown within 50-miles of the town, and that all vendors must grow or produce their own products. Each farm pays an inspection fee and undergoes a site visit by a member of the appointed committee before they are allowed to join the Market.
- The Fayetteville Farmers Market in Fayetteville, Arkansas, which hosts 60 local producers, is one of many markets governed by a board that includes farmers in decision-making processes.
- The Fulton Street Farmers Market in Grand Rapids, Michigan gives preference for producers selling only what they grow themselves through the “Fulton Street 100% Certified Homegrown” program
- Thanks to an innovate partnership with Jefferson Landworks, the Port Townsend Farmers Market helped one of its farmers acquire 25 acres of prime farmland at below market value, enabling the business to expand and produce more nutritious local food.
Farmer-centric policies and programs like these ensure a level playing field for local growers, build trust with shoppers, and help preserve the rural landscapes in neighboring counties.
“It’s a sad truth that many farmers today have little say in when, where, and how their crops ultimately reach the end consumer,” says Stacy Miller, Executive Director of the Farmers Market Coalition (FMC). “Farmers markets are one place where farmers are given the opportunity to tell their story, face-to-face, with the people who eat their food. During National Farmers Market Week, FMC invites all Americans to meet a farmer, and listen to the surprisingly rich stories of how food makes it from seed to plate.”
Seven Days, Seven Ways to Celebrate Farmers Market Impacts
- Sunday, August 7th: Farmers markets and community education
Innovative partnerships that allow markets to serve as hubs of information
- Monday, August 8th: Farmers markets and public health
Promoting goodnutrition and healthful habits
- Tuesday, August 9th : Farmers markets as economic engines
Business incubation, job development, and local spending
- Wednesday, August 10th: Farmers at the center of the system
Governance and policies that put farmers first
- Thursday, August 11th:Farmers markets and food equity
Improving access to healthful foods in underserved neighborhoods
- Friday, August 12th: Farmers markets and civic engagement
Growing social capital and engaging volunteers
- Saturday, August 13th: Farmers markets and rural renewal
Supporting agricultural diversity and farm viability, while inspiring a new generation of producers
All farmers markets are worthy of celebration, not only during National Farmers Market Week, but throughout the year. The following diverse mix of markets is being recognized during National Farmers Market Week 2011 for their innovation and demonstrated success in serving farmers, consumers, and communities:
Click on the links above to learn more about how each of these markets are making positive and lasting change in their communities.