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Farmers Markets Bring Bounty to Tables Across the Country

Nifa Author
Margaret Lawrence, Writer-Editor

Summertime would not be complete for most people without at least one visit to a farmers market. In 2020, farmers and producers sold almost $3 billion worth of products directly to consumers through farmers markets and on-farm stores. 

According to USDA’s National Agriculture Statistics Service, Texas led the nation in the number of farms selling directly to consumers, with almost 8,000 operations engaged in direct-to-consumer sales. California led in sales directly to consumers, earning $284 million.

The nation’s farmers markets benefit from USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) support of Land-grant Universities’ Extension programs. NIFA supports Extension through capacity funding.  

Extension Efforts Around the Nation

  • In many states, county Extension offices are active supporters of local farmers markets—often handling vital management roles. For example, in New York, Cornell Extension in Delaware County is sponsoring the Walton Farmers Market. This market has been established for the convenience of residents and participants in the Farmers Market Nutrition Program (FMNP).  

  • In North Carolina, N.C. Cooperative Extension and the Sanford Farmers Market’s market vendor leadership team coordinate market logistics each week by sending out communications, planning activities and exploring opportunities for the market to grow and better meet the needs of farmers and consumers alike.

  • Now in its seventh season, Fresh on DeK Mobile Farmers Market in Georgia targets communities without access to grocery stores within a one-mile radius. Fresh on DeK also provides an opportunity to learn healthy eating habits and make better food.  Dekalb County staff with Georgia Cooperative Extension oversee the market.

  • Connecticut Extension educators worked to increase economic viability of the state’s vegetable producers with their online Vegetable Production Certificate Course. Participants learned about farm business planning, planning and preparing for vegetable farming, warm and cool-season vegetable production techniques, season extension and marketing.

  • Vermont Extension professionals and their partners created a voluntary food safety program to inform and recognize small- and medium-sized farms that adopt best practices for produce safety, prepare customized produce safety plans, and comply federal and state regulations. Accreditation through the Vermont  program reassures customers that produce was handled using best practices to not only minimize food safety risk but also to ensure the quality.

  • California Cooperative Extension professionals lead a working group to increase access to farmers market incentive programs and address barriers. The group has worked to increase the visibility of farmers market incentives through social media, text messaging, press releases and advertisements. Since 2017, there has been 171% increase in CalFresh and Market Match redemption. Additionally, these purchases have generated a total of $386,000 in direct income to local farmers and farmers markets.

  • Kansas State University has created a food safety toolkit for producers selling at farmers markets. The information is also available in Spanish. Kansas State also operates the Kansas Value Added Foods Lab, which will evaluate producers’ food products and assist with help with labeling.

Top image: Left image of individuals holding tomatoes at a farmers market. Right image of various peppers displayed at a farmers market stand. Images courtesy of Adobe Stock. 

Farm Bill Priority Areas
Plant health, production, and products;
Agriculture systems and technology;
Food Safety, Nutrition, and Health;
Agriculture economics and rural communities
U.S. States and Territories
New York,
North Carolina,
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