Greetings from New Mexico, the Land of Enchantment! I’m here at the Santa Fe Farmers Market, where local farmers and ranchers have come together to sell their goods to the community for more than 50 years. This popular farmers market started with just a handful of growers and now has more than 100 vendors, more than any other in the state. It’s the perfect place to celebrate all that farmers markets do for rural and urban communities around the country by kicking off the 16th annual National Farmers Market Week.
Audio story from USDA Radio available on the USDA website.
The growth in Santa Fe’s market mirrors what is happening across the country – Americans want to get to know their farmers and learn where their food comes from. Farmers markets like this one are at the heart of many towns and cities, attracting foot traffic and customers to brick and mortar stores, bringing together rural and urban Americans, and creating jobs and opportunities for local farmers and ranchers. That’s why my agency, USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS), is always looking for innovative ways to help farmers markets succeed.
At AMS, we have a long history of supporting local and regional food systems – including farmers markets – through grants, research, technical assistance, and market information. AMS grant programs invest millions in local and regional food systems, including farmers markets. Since 2009, our Farmers Market Promotion Program has funded 630 projects totaling $42 million to support direct marketing efforts for local food. And since 2009, we funded over 250 farmers markets projects totaling $13.5 million to promote fruits and vegetables through the Specialty Crop Block Grant Program (2009-2014).
While in Santa Fe, I’m also releasing the results of our 2014 National Farmers Market Manager Survey. AMS conducted a survey of 1,400 market managers across the country to help markets like this one better understand market trends and remain successful. The results show that farmers markets are thriving – customer demand remains strong, with most market managers reporting increased sales and a desire to expand. We also learned that two-thirds of markets have at least one USDA-certified organic vendor. Not surprisingly, the survey found that farmers markets are often at the heart of their communities, with local volunteers not only running the market, but also organizing special events, music, and programming on healthy eating.
Celebrating National Farmers Market Week and producing the National Farmers Market Survey are part of USDA’s commitment to local and regional food systems. Secretary Vilsack identified strengthening local food systems as one of the four pillars of USDA’s commitment to rural economic development. The Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food Initiative coordinates USDA’s policy, resources, and outreach efforts related to this work. We are also part of Local Food, Local Places, a multi-agency federal initiative that provides technical support to rural communities to help build strong local food systems.
We hope you visit your local farmers market and join our celebration of National Farmers Market Week!