This year the USDA has selected the second week of August, from the 5th to the 11th, as National Farmer’s Market week in recognition of the increasingly important role farmer’s markets play in the American food supply. Direct to consumer agriculture, farmer’s markets and farm stands are a billion dollar industry in their own right and each year the number of farmer’s markets is steadily increasing. In the past ten years, the USDA indicates that the number of farmer’s markets in the country has more than doubled. Even with more than 7,000 farmer’s markets operating across the states, the demand continues to increase making room for even more farmer’s to join in.
Here in Arizona, there are almost 100 farmer’s markets open for business all across the state. Although many markets and farm stands close down during the high heat of summer, there are also markets that stay open year round. Shopping at these markets as well as requesting local produce and meat at your grocery store is a win for everyone involved. Buying local boosts the local economy and makes it possible for farmer’s to continue growing food locally. When the food you buy is local, you are decreasing your environmental footprint while getting fresher in-season food. In some cases, the food you get from local farmers is less expensive than items brought in from elsewhere because the cost of transportation is so much lower. In addition, although only about 12% of farmer’s markets were accepting food assistance vouchers at the end of last year, the USDA is looking to boost that figure and increase access to these healthy, local food products for those who receive assistance.
If you are not a frequent farmer’s market shopper, this week offers a great opportunity for you to check one out. To find a market close to you, you can look at the list provided by the Arizona Farm Bureau which provides a list of each market and includes information about where they are located, when they are open, and who to contact for more information. To help make sure you have the best possible experience, here are some great tips for getting the most out of your trip to the farmer’s market.
1. The Early Bird Gets the Goods
Farmers bring what they have and when it’s gone, it’s gone; there isn’t any more in the backroom. Make sure you get to browse the full selection of farm products and can select the items you want rather than feeling like you have to settle for what’s left by getting there early.
2. Bring Bags
Some growers will have bags for you to use and some will offer recycled bags but not all growers will have something for you to carry your purchases in. Bringing your own bags means you will always have bags to use and you know that they are clean.
3. Carry Cash
Although many farmers markets do take credit cards, there are still some who don’t which means it is imperative that you have cash on hand when you go shopping. Paying cash is also helpful to the farmers who have to pay transaction fees on credit card transactions and then wait for their money to arrive from the credit card company.
- Top Tips to Enhancing Your Farmers Market Shopping Experience (fillyourplate.org)
- Announcing the Opening of the new Back Street Farmers Market (fillyourplate.org)
- Healthy Foods: The Affordable Choice (fillyourplate.org)