With the recent announcement from Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack that the number of farmers markets in the country increased by 13 percent from last year, American Farmland Trust applauds the many communities and consumers reaching out for fresh food and supporting their local farmers and farmland. Farmers and consumers connected at 5,274 farmers markets this year, up from 4,685 in 2008.
"This growth in the number of farmers markets is a good indicator of just how important local farms and food are to people today," says Julia Freedgood, managing director of AFT's Growing Local initiative. "Farmers markets play a crucial role in bringing fresh food to areas where it's not always available.
American Farmland Trust launched a national online contest this summer so consumers could vote for their favorite farmers markets. This contest also illustrated several key concepts including AFT's "No Farms No Food" message and the importance of farmers markets to local economies, access to healthy food, farmland protection and the environment.
"Not only does this mean the number of farmers markets has increased," adds Stacy Miller, Executive Secretary of the Farmers Market Coalition, "but it also represents growth in the number of people participating in nutrition and food assistance programs, such as SNAP, and in the degree to which communities are building partnerships and connections that support local food systems and access to local food."
"As AFT enters our 30th anniversary it is important to reflect on past successes but also to look ahead at how to engage a new generation in understanding the importance of protecting farmland. Farmers markets are a great way to accomplish this," Freedgood concludes.