It’s National Farmers Market Week! And with the number of U.S. farmers markets continuing to increase, we have a lot of reasons to rejoice.
As of August 3rd, 2013, the USDA’s farmers market database listed 8,144 markets — more than double the number of a decade ago. This is goodness for farmers and eaters alike. Farmers markets do much more than provide easier access to local produce. They reduce the miles your food travels, which benefits the environment and means your produce is fresher and more nutritious. They connect food producers directly with consumers, so our farmers profit more from every sale, and we shoppers get to really know where our food comes from. And they inspire education and community.
What will you do to celebrate your local farm families and their bounties? Here are five ideas to inspire you:
- Visit a local market, and make it personal. Check out the USDA’s Farmers Market Search or LocalHarvest to find markets near you. If you’re out and about, download the Fresh Food Finder or Locavore app to your iPhone. And make it a point to introduce yourself to the farmers who grow your food.
- Visit a farm. Ask your new farmer friends if they hold events or give tours of their facilities. In my area, I can tour a dairy farm, take on-site vegetable growing classes, and eat farm-to-table dinners at the farm itself. A little time with Google can uncover a wealth of educational, fun farm-based entertainment options.
- Look for special events at your market. Most larger cities have one or two major farmers markets. Search their web sites to find opportunities to join others in your community for festivals, cooking demos, or cooking classes.
- Buy more than just fruits and vegetables. At my closest farmers market, I can buy grass-fed beef, tamales, bread, pasta, and even jewelry and clothes. The folks sitting on the other sides of those tables will appreciate your support as much as your farmers do.
- Eat at restaurants that use locally-produced ingredients. More and more chefs rely on them these days, frequently highlighting their sources on menus and chalkboards. Again, Google is your friend — search for “farm to table restaurants” and see what you find.
It’s National Farmers Market Week, and I hope these ideas prompt you to support your local farms all year long. How will you celebrate?
Image Credit: NatalieMaynor via flickr/CC