Farmers Markets Don’t Just Happen: Celebrating Farmers Markets During National Farmers Market Week

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by Jenna Shea Photo Journalism

When I think of my local farmers market, it’s hard to fathom how a nearby parking lot transforms into a place filled with fresh produce, delicious goods, good music, and amazing energy. However, the impact of farmers markets goes beyond making one’s weekend mornings off to a great start. In fact, farmers markets provide access to fresh food, stimulate the local economy, and create a space for the community to gather.

A primary purpose of farmers markets is to make fresh and healthy produce accessible to community members. In studies across rural and urban areas, it is shown that farmers markets are a viable method to increase population-level produce consumption. In order to expand accessibility across socioeconomic backgrounds, many farmers markets accept federal nutritional benefits such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC). Implementation of these benefits has made a significant impact for families in communities across the country. In 2021, over 100 million dollars of federal nutrition benefits were redeemed at farmers markets and farm direct sites.

Besides providing fresh produce to community members, farmers markets fuel the local economy by supporting small businesses and generating job opportunities. In 2020, 59 percent of direct to consumer sales reported by the USDA were due to farmers markets and on-farm stores. As for creating job opportunities, farmers markets provide the space for working at the market and for the vendors themselves. According to the 2020 USDA/NASS Market Manager Survey, 53 percent of market operators were paid employees. Plus, growers who sell locally are able to create 13 full time farm operator jobs per $1 million in revenue earned.

One aspect of farmers markets that many overlook is that they’re also a place where people gather. A study by the American Farm Bureau has shown that 72 percent of consumers have little to no knowledge of farming and ranching. Farmers markets provide the space for farmers and consumers to connect and educate each other. In fact, multiple studies indicate that farmer-consumer interactions have improved sustainability practices for farmers and inspire consumers to shift their purchasing habits.

However, tents don’t just build themselves every week! Market operators take intricate steps daily to create and maintain thriving farmers markets in communities across the country. From navigating local laws and codes, building vendor relationships, troubleshooting technical issues, marketing, and physically setting up the market, it goes without saying that farmers markets don’t just happen. Markets continue to put in the effort to better themselves in order to support their communities from adapting to health and safety protocol due to the pandemic, to partnering with outside organizations to foster more inclusive and equitable spaces for all members of their communities. The culture of farmers markets is changing, and that’s thanks to farmers market operators who seek to foster markets as community hubs and move the narrative of farmers markets beyond the status quo.

That’s why at the Farmers Market Coalition, it is imperative for us to serve as the national voice for farmers markets and support farmers market operators in cultivating resilient local food systems in communities across the country. As the only national organization representing farmers market operators, we work with experts across the country to strengthen farmers markets through advocacy, education, technical support, and promotion.

As markets continue to grow and adapt, they need the support of the community to continue the essential work they do. A great way to start is by amplifying your local market during National Farmers Market Week (NFMW). In 1999, the U.S Department of Agriculture proclaimed the first week in August, National Farmers Market Week. Since then, NFMW has been a week full of celebration and acknowledgment of the immense value farmers markets give to our neighborhoods across the country. Join us in celebrating National Farmers Market Week 2022 coming up August 7-13!

Want to celebrate and support your local market during National Farmers Market Week and beyond? Here are a few ways.

  • Visit your local farmers market. This week is a great time to visit and meet with the people that make your market happen. Connect and thank your local farmers, vendors, and market operators. And don’t forget to purchase some local goods!
  • Volunteer. Many farmers markets depend on volunteers to thrive. According to the 2020 NASS/USDA Market Manager Survey, over 31,000 volunteers contributed their time to over 5,000 markets across the nation. Check to see if nearby markets have volunteer opportunities and get a glimpse of the work that it takes to bring local food to your neighborhood.
  • Donate. Help your local market continue to provide this essential service by donating. Your money can go towards infrastructure, technologies, health and safety equipment, and much more. Contact your local market to find out how you can financially support them.
  • Spread the word. Attendance is vital for a market’s sustainability. Share market information to your family, friends, and neighbors. And of course, follow your favorite markets on social media to keep up with the latest updates.

Mykalee McGowan is the Communications Associate at the Farmers Market Coalition. They joined FMC in July 2021. They are a strong supporter of food and wellness accessibility for all. They have volunteered for organizations such as Food Not Bombs and AfroVegan Society in Baltimore, Maryland. Currently, they are studying for their Masters in Nutrition and Herbal Medicine at the Maryland University of Integrative Health.