National Farmers Market Week celebrates growing connection between farmers and consumers

The USDA National Farmers Market Week, Aug. 6-12, will celebrate the vital role markets play in supporting local economies and giving consumers access to healthy local foods.

usda“Farmers’ markets are a way for consumers to get fresh, local, nutritious produce direct from the producer,” explained Chris Cook, Virginia Farm Bureau Federation assistant director of rural development. “These markets are usually the first step that farmers take when they start selling their products directly to the consumer. It is the easiest and quickest way for them to acquire customers.”

The most recent Census of Agriculture found that more than 3,500 Virginia farm operators sell directly to consumers. Virginia has nearly 250 farmers’ markets, compared to 85 in 2005.

Purcellville Farmers’ Market, one of a dozen farm markets in Loudoun County, will mark Farmers Market Week with live music and children’s activities in addition to its usual array of fresh produce, eggs, pork, beef and maple syrup.

“It’s great to have a National Farmers Market Week to bring attention to all of the hard work and involvement that go into having a farmers’ market,” noted market manager Kelley Partlow. “People don’t have to go to the supermarket. They can find good, healthy food at farmers’ markets and support local families, farms and community.”

Virginia ranks ninth nationwide for direct farm-to-consumer sales. In 2015, Virginians spent more than $41 million on local products.

“One of the best ways to support your local economy is to purchase locally grown agricultural products,” noted Sandy Adams, Virginia’s commissioner of agriculture and consumer services. “In fact, research by Virginia Cooperative Extension has shown that if each household spent $10 a week on local products, an additional $1.65 billion would be invested back into the commonwealth’s local economy each year.”

The Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services maintains a directory of farmers’ markets across the state at virginiagrown.com.

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