WASHINGTON — More than 1,000 new farmers markets have been recorded across the country, according to results released recently in the USDA’s 2011 National Farmers Market Directory.
The annual report indicates a total of 7,175 farmers markets operate throughout the U.S. as more farmers are marketing their products directly to consumers than ever before. Last year, the USDA reported that 6,132 markets were operating across the country.
“The remarkable growth in farmers markets is an excellent indicator of the staying power of local and regional foods,” said Kathleen Merrigan, agriculture deputy secretary.
“These outlets provide economic benefits for producers to grow their businesses and also to communities by providing increased access to fresh fruits and vegetables and other foods. In short, they are a critical ingredient in our nation’s food system.”
Updated market listings were submitted to USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service by farmers market managers on a voluntary, self-reported basis between April 18 and June 24 as part of USDA’s annual outreach effort.
USDA invited market managers to submit desired changes in their market’s Directory profile as well as new market listings. Information in the Directory is also continually updated throughout the year in response to incoming requests.
The 2011 National Farmers Market Directory results were released in advance of National Farmers Market Week, which takes place from Aug. 7-13 as declared by Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack.
The directory reveals that several states have experienced rapid growth in farmers markets since 2010, reflecting a growing interest outside of the Far West and Northeast states, where the popularity of farmers markets is more well-established.
Alaska and Texas ranked at the top for most growth in farmers markets at 46 and 38 percent, respectively.
The top-10 list for growth includes: Alaska (35 markets, up 46 percent); Texas (166 markets, up 38 percent); Colorado (130 markets, up 38 percent); New Mexico (80 markets, up 38 percent); Indiana (171markets, up 37 percent); Oklahoma (61 markets, up 32 percent); South Dakota (29 markets, up 32 percent); Pennsylvania (266 markets, up 31 percent); Ohio (278 markets, up 31 percent); Michigan (349 markets, up30 percent).
The top-10 states for number of recorded farmers markets in 2011 were spread across the country: California (729 markets); New York (520); Michigan (349); Illinois (305); Ohio (278); Pennsylvania (266); Massachusetts (255); Iowa (237); Wisconsin (231); North Carolina (217).
Of the total number of farmers markets reported by market managers, nearly 12 percent indicate they have the capability of accepting SNAP (formerly known as food stamp) benefits onsite. This represents a 16 percent increase in the number of markets accepting SNAP benefits since 2010.
While SNAP redemption data are not available for farmers markets specifically, the USDA Food and Nutrition Service recently reported that SNAP redemptions in 2010 totaled $7.5 million at all certified farmers market and direct-to-consumer food retail establishments.
Program participants made 453,711 purchases at farmers markets and direct farm marketing outlets nationwide, with an average purchase amount of $16.69.