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Big Data for Small Producers - USDA Market News Now Covers 85 Farmers Markets

Posted by Craig A. Morris, Agricultural Marketing Service Livestock, Poultry, and Seed Program Deputy Administrator in Conservation Food and Nutrition Farming Technology
Jun 30, 2015
The Des Moines Farmers Market
As local and regional food systems continue to expand, so does the need for reliable market data. USDA Market News now captures data on over 85 farmers markets in the U.S. Pictured here is the Des Moines Farmers Market, which draws an average of 20,000 visitors a weekend. Photo courtesy of Des Moines, Iowa Farmers Market.

Farmers markets are an important part of local and regional food systems.  Nationwide, 150,000 farmers and ranchers are selling their products directly to consumers to meet the growing demand for local food.  Many sell their products at farmers markets, which can be a catalyst for future growth. 

According to USDA’s National Farmers Market Directory, there are over 8,400 farmers markets across the country serving as community gathering places where America’s food producers are building successful businesses and bringing fresh, local food to their communities.  As local and regional food systems continue to expand, so does the need for reliable market data.

In response, and thanks to support from the 2014 Farm Bill, USDA Market News created a series of market reports on local products.  USDA Market News – administered by USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) – provides data that serves as the information lifeline for America’s agricultural economy.  The reports for local and regional food outlets – available on the Local & Regional Food Marketing Information webpage – provide a one-stop-shop for market and pricing information.  One component of the local and regional market data are reports on farmers markets. 

Currently, AMS works with 15 states to develop local and regional price reporting.  Thanks to this collaborative federal-state partnership, USDA Market News captures data on over 85 farmers markets from Colorado to Maryland. 

A great example of our farmers market coverage includes two reports capturing Iowa markets.  The Iowa Farmers Market Report covers farmers markets located in Ames, Cedar Rapids, Clinton, Des Moines, Dubuque, Mason City, and Spencer, Iowa.  The report provides prices of locally produced fruits, vegetables, herbs, cheese, eggs, maple syrup, mushrooms, starter plants, and various meat products.

There is also a stand-alone report for the Des Moines Farmers Market.  Entering into its 40th year, and considered to be one of the best farmers markets in the country, the Des Moines Farmers Market takes place on Saturdays from May to October – and a few winter markets too. Over the course of the market season, the market offers products from 58 Iowa counties by over 300 local entrepreneurs.  A key gathering place for the community, the market draws an average of 20,000 visitors every weekend. Vendors and patrons can also participate in Meals from the Market program, which acts as a fresh food collector to distribute food from the market to local pantries.  

As consumer demand for local foods has grown, USDA Market News strives to deliver up-to-date information.  In the future, we plan to include more states, more markets, and more historic analysis to help local and regional food producers get the market data they need to improve their businesses.

USDA Market News makes our nation’s commodity markets one of the most transparent in the world and provides critical market intelligence. This year marks the 100th anniversary of USDA Market News. Our farmers market reports are one example of how Market News works to ensure that everyone in the agricultural supply chain has the information they need when they need it.  We encourage you to take a look at our website, infographic, and video to see why for 100 years USDA Market News has been a trusted source then, now, and always.