The U.S. Department of Agriculture celebrated National Farmers Market Week Aug. 4-10 with a kick-off event at the Columbia Heights Farmers Market in Washington, D.C.
Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced that 8,144 farmers markets are now listed in 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 at farmersmarkets.usda.gov. This year, the directory has been upgraded to include a new Application Programming Interface that improves customer access to farmers market data.
"Farmers markets are an important public face for agriculture and a critical part of our nation's food system," said Vilsack. "They provide benefits not only to the farmers looking for important income opportunities, but also help fill a growing consumer demand for fresh, healthy foods."
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.
Geographic regions like the Mid Atlantic, which includes Delaware, the District of Columbia, Maryland, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Virginia and West Virginia, increased to an 11.98 percent market share in 2013, from an 11.65 percent in 2012.
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 programs improve access to healthy food in underserved communities across the country.