Just in time for National Farmer's Market Week, US Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack has announced that 8,144 farmers markets are now listed in the USDA's National Farmers Market Directory, up from about 5,000 in 2008. The directory, voluntarily updated by farmers market managers, state departments of agriculture, marketing associations, and others, is published online at farmersmarkets.usda.gov.
One of the many markets listed in the directory is Wetzel County's own farmer's market. This market is held each Thursday in Bruce Park, 4-7 p.m. and has the ability to accept SNAP benefits, WIC vouchers, and senior discount coupons.
Wetzel County market-goer Carla McBee stated that she was glad to have the opportunity to share and enjoy healthy natural food from local farmers. "It shows our appreciation for the natural things in life," she said. "I personally love the farmer's market and hope it continues."
Some supporters of the Wetzel County Farmers Market ring open this year’s first market at Bruce Park, earlier this year. The local market is now listed in the USDA’s National Farmers Market Directory.
Resident Mary Ann Yevuta also expressed her appreciation for the market, "I can't think of a better way for a community to reconnect to its roots than with a farmer's market."
The market also strives to provide entertainment each week, whether it be in the form of a cooking demonstration, live music, or an informational booth. The market offers tasty vegetables, berries, beef, eggs, homemade soaps and salves, and so much more. Visitors to the market are encouraged to mark their calendars for Aug. 29, when the farmer's market will celebrate one year of being in operation.
Local food and direct marketing opportunities, including farmers markets, are one of the fastest growing segments of agriculture. According to the latest Census of Agriculture, direct sales of food products from farmers to individual consumers rose by nearly 50 percent between 2002 and 2007. Worth an estimated $1 billion in 2005, local food sales grew to $4.8 billion in 2007 and nearly $7 billion last year, according to industry estimates. For nearby businesses in major cities across the U.S., having a farmers market nearby means an average increase in sales of anywhere from $19,000 to $15 million (according to a Marketumbrella research paper published in 2012).
Geographic regions like the mid-Atlantic (Delaware, the District of Columbia, Maryland, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and West Virginia) increased to a 11.98 percent market share in 2013, from a 11.65 percent in 2012, the Northeast (Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Rhode Island, and Vermont) increased to a 29.11 percent market share in 2013, from a 27.48 percent share in 2012, and the Southeast region (Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Tennessee) increased to a 5.03 percent market share in 2013, from a 4.79 percent share in 2012.
The USDA has taken several steps to support direct marketing farmers as part of the department's commitment to support local and regional food systems, and increase consumer access to fresh, healthy food in communities across the country. For example:
-The USDA launched a new API for the National Farmers Market Directory in May which helps consumers locate farmers markets nearby. APIs enable programmers to interact directly with an open data source to work with real-time data, rather than a static data export that can become immediately out of date. The development is part of USDA's commitment to expanding opportunities for our local farmers markets and small businesses.
-The USDA's Food and Nutrition Service (FNS), has outfitted more farmers markets with the ability to accept SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program), to improve access to fresh produce and healthy foods by SNAP recipients. USDA recently announced $4 million dollars in available funding to help farmers markets and direct marketing farmers purchase and operate wireless point-of-sale equipment. Currently, over 3,800 farmers markets are authorized to accept SNAP in FY 2012, and farmers markets generate over $16 million in SNAP sales.
-USDA's Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food initiative serves the growing local and regional market segment. This initiative coordinates and strengthens USDA's work on local and regional food systems.
Many markets will host fun activities to celebrate National Farmers Market Week, including pie contests, festivals, cooking demonstrations, events for kids, raffle drawings and giveaways. USDA officials will visit markets around the country between Aug. 4 and 10, to honor growers and commemorate National Farmers Market Week.
The USDA National Farmers Market Directory is available at farmersmarkets.usda.gov. Users can search this year's enhanced directory for farmers markets based on location, available products, and types of payment accepted, including participation in federal nutrition programs such as SNAP and WIC. Farmers markets that participate in federal nutrition program improve access to healthy food in underserved communities across the country.