What a great time of year to visit your local farmers market! From root crops such as beets, carrots and radishes to salad greens like Swiss chard, lettuce and spinach—farmers markets are full of fresh ingredients that you can use in your favorite fall recipes. My agency, the Agricultural Marketing Service, maintains the USDA's National Farmers Market Directory, where you can search for local markets and discover where to get your squashes, pumpkins, pears and apples. There are over 8,200 farmers markets listed with their locations, operating hours and other details, providing a simple and easy way for consumers and producers around the country to find each other.
Local and regional food systems, including farmers markets, are one of USDA's four key pillars to revitalize rural economies and improve access to fresh, healthy food for millions of Americans. Last month, I announced that AMS was building three new local food directories for food hubs, community-supported agriculture operations and on-farm markets. I asked local food enterprises to go online and list the details of their businesses in the new directories—and they responded!
We are thrilled to now have all four USDA Local Food Directories available online and ahead of schedule! These valuable online tools give potential customers, business partners and community planners easy, one-stop access to the most current information about sources of local foods.
- USDA's National Community-Supported Agriculture (CSA) Enterprise Directory - A CSA is a farm or network of multiple farms that offers consumers regular deliveries of locally-grown farm products during harvest season on a subscription or membership basis.
- USDA's National Food Hub Directory - A Food Hub is a business that actively manages the aggregation, distribution, and marketing of food products to multiple buyers from multiple producers, to strengthen the ability of these producers to satisfy local and regional wholesale, retail, and institutional demand.
- USDA's National On-Farm Market Directory - An On-Farm Market is a farm market managed by a single farm operator that sells agricultural products directly to consumers from a location on their farm property or on property adjacent to that farm.
- USDA's National Farmers Market Directory - Farmers markets feature two or more farm vendors selling agricultural products directly to customers at a common, recurrent physical location.
These free, online directories include locations, directions, operating times, and product offerings. The data are collected through voluntary self-reporting by listed businesses and are searchable by zip code, product mix, and other criteria. The Farmers Market Directory gets about two million hits annually. We hope that USDA's new directories will be equally popular as we continue to support local and regional food systems.
Much of this work is coordinated across USDA by the Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food initiative. AMS invests in projects like these to contribute to the livelihoods of our farmers and ranchers and strengthen the connections between rural and urban communities.