American Farmland Trust (AFT) has opened the voting to select "America's Favorite Farmers Markets" at www.farmland.org/vote. The on-line contest is a nationwide challenge to see which of America's 4,685 farmers markets can rally the most support from its customers. The goal is to promote the connection between fresh local food and the local farms and farmland that supply it.
At the end of the contest, one large, medium and small farmers market will win the title of "America's Favorite Farmers Market" for 2009. The reward will be a shipment of No Farms No Food tote bags for the winning market managers to distribute to the shoppers that made it happen.
"Voting for your favorite farmers market is more fun and local than voting for TV entertainment," says Jane Kirchner, AFT Senior Director of Marketing. "This is a contest where people can vote for their hometown favorite. Markets are places where people in towns gather for good food, to meet the producers of their food, to buy good ingredients and have good times."
"Farmers markets are one of the best ways for consumers to support local farms and farmers," says Julia Freedgood, Managing Director for AFT's Growing Local Initiative. "A great way to find seasonal fresh fruits and vegetables, farmers markets also support public health and economic development opportunities in our communities," she adds. The 2007 U.S. Agricultural Census reports a 49 percent growth in sales from farms directly to consumers since 2002-representing $1.2 billon that stayed in local communities. But at the same time, more than one million acres of farmland are developed each year-most around cities where there is greatest demand for local food. "We need to make the connection: there's no local food without local farms and farmland," says Freedgood.
Many barriers stand in the way of scaling up local farm production to meet the burgeoning demand for local food. AFT is working to support policies and programs to protect farmland, reduce barriers between farmers and consumers and encourage communities to plan for agriculture and regional food systems.
Farmers market managers can register to join the contest by visiting www.farmland.org/marketmanager.
Shoppers can vote online for their support their favorite farmers' market at www.farmland.org/vote until August 8th. Results will be announced during Farmers' Market Week August 2-8, 2009.