Farmers markets are everywhere, and that’s a good thing

farmersWhen it comes to the health of our nation’s communities, there’s a lot to be worried about.

But here’s a bright spot: The number of farmers markets registered with the U.S. Department of Agriculture has skyrocketed over the last decade.

That means more people are getting easy access to fresh, locally-grown produce.

Today, there are nearly 8,300 farmers markets nationwide registered with the USDA. That’s up 70 percent from 2008, when there were 4,865 registered farmers markets. In 2004, the total was 3,706.

Hawaii has seen the rising popularity of farmers markets first-hand.

The state was among 10 nationwide that saw the biggest growth in the number of farmers markets in 2013, according to the USDA. The department estimates there are more than 80 farmers markets operating in the islands.

So why should we be celebrating the growth in the number of farmers markets?

Anne Alonzo, USDA agricultural marketing service administrator, explains:

Beyond the economic and business benefits, farmers markets give communities across the country access to fresh, healthy foods, especially in urban and rural areas where shopping options may be limited. What began as a business necessity for many small farmers has evolved into a social event for entire communities, with many families and patrons viewing a trip to the Saturday morning market as the start of their social weekend. As markets grow, new features like live music, cooking demonstrations, gardening tips and educational opportunities are added. Businesses that surround farmers markets also benefit from the additional foot traffic that the market brings.

In fact, farmers markets are increasingly being seen as a way to help build healthier communities and improve access to healthy foods.

Looking for a farmers market near you?

Check out the USDA’s local food directory. You can search for farmers markets, or check out other venues for getting locally grown produce in your area.

You can also check out the state’s directory of farmers markets, which includes market links and phone numbers.

Got a favorite farmers market? Tell us about it in the comments section.

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