Farmers Markets: What Are They?
At farmers’ markets, producers and vendors have the chance to come together to provide locally-grown and crafted foods directly to customers. These events are not only advantageous for farmers but also for shoppers, as well as towns or cities hosting them. By eliminating intermediary parties, farmers get greater return for their produce whilst customers can enjoy the freshest, tastiest food around. In addition, local economies benefit from increased support.
Farmers markets can vary significantly depending on the region. Each will have its own definition of what constitutes local produce and engaging in practices that uphold this view with consumers. Some states even have their own official definitions of market characteristics, to protect both growers and customers accordingly. The sheer number of American farmers markets has grown extensively throughout the years, going from nearly 2,000 in 1994 to more than 8,600 currently listed in the USDA’s Farmers Market Directory.
At a farmers’ market, what will I find?
The size of farmers markets can vary greatly, which allows them to reflect the agricultural production of their area and current season. Some may exist for only a few months of the year and feature just a few vendors, yet others are year-round and include numerous providers. This provides satisfaction to both farmers and customers that the items available are truly representative of a location’s or state’s agriculture. Depending on when you visit, the array of goods could be quite different – while California or Texas may offer avocados, olives, steak or artichokes at certain times of year, Virginia’s selection could consist of paw paws, peanuts, pork, and peonies.
While some markets specialize in vegetables and fruits, others provide everything from baked goods, meat, eggs, blossoms, and dairy products. As the range of markets expands, the variety of foods offered increases. Some could produce your location made crafts or all set foods as a boost to the farming supplies they use.
What do farmers bring to market?
What goes to market depends on location, season and local standards. Many farmers markets exclusively sell locally-grown, made and/or processed produce, as well as have set regulations that guarantee vendors are producing what they offer. This protects local farmers from having to compete with low-cost, imported goods of poorer quality. A key benefit of visiting a farmers market is the transparency; if you ever have questions about a product’s origins or how it was grown then you can simply ask! Some direct-marketing farms also give tours to visitors.
Farmers markets only open in the summer?
Harvest season is usually the peak market period with some markets just open in spring, summer, and early autumn. In 2010, 15% of farmers markets stayed open even during the winter months. There has been an increase of year-round farmers markets across various states. Several of these have gone further and lengthened their hours or operate year-round with items such as meat, eggs, milk, bread, and other products that can be enjoyed fresh all year round. Even in cold climates, there are various season-extending techniques implemented by farmers to protect their crops from frost and permit them to be harvested and sold fresh for more months of the year. If you would like to know what’s available locally at different times of the year, click here for more information.