It’s national farmers market week, always a good time to think of and thank the farmers who grow the food at our markets. The Lawrence Farmers Market, in fact, is being recognized this week by the Farmers Market Coalition as a fine example of what a farmers market should be.
As a fan (and board member) of farmers markets, I’m always grateful for the markets and the farmers who grow the food. Farmers market week comes shortly after news from the USDA that there are 1,000 more U.S. farmers markets compared with last year, but there is less evidence that markets are thriving as much as I’d like. While markets are proliferating, I’m not sure that market shoppers are expanding and spending at a rate to keep up with them.
Here locally, informal discussions with market producers indicate that sales are down. And Lynn Byczynski, editor of Growing for Market newsletter for growers, noted in her 2011 Trends special edition that the increase in markets is cutting into sales for some established farms.
In short, it appears that growers are getting on board faster than buyers are spending. Those of us who love our fresh-fresh-fresh local food need to do our part not only to spend our own food dollars at the markets (and CSAs) but also to spread the word among our friends, family and co-workers that farmers markets are the place to buy food of unbeatable quality. We want to keep the markets and the growers strong!
This year’s been an especially tough one in terms of the weather, but the growers keep producing. I hope you’ll join me in buying that produce. Our local market is rolling out an informal friends program this weekend, by the way. You can read about the Friends of the Farmers Market and benefits to members. Why not join?
If you’d like to see some growers talking about their products at the Lawrence market, see the new series of videos on YouTube, on the Get Lawrence Fresh channel. And if you or your friends still think prices are higher at the market, compare for yourself or look at Barry Estabrook’s post on the topic. I’ve done some one-on-one comparisons and found the market prices are right on target, and if you factor in the quality and taste of the farmers market product, you are getting a major bargain there. So… buy, eat and enjoy the fruits of the farmers’ labor.