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LETTER TO THE EDITOR: Five reasons to shop at a Missouri farmers market

Tuesday, August 5, 2014 | 10:16 a.m. CDT

This week marks the 15th Annual National Farmers Market Week, where we celebrate the abundance of summer and the farmers and ranchers who make it possible.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has identified strengthening local food systems as one of the four pillars of rural economic development.

Nationwide, local food is one of the fastest growing segments of agriculture. The 2012 Census of Agriculture indicates that 150,000 farmers and ranchers nationwide are selling their products directly to consumers, often through farmers markets.

Through the 2014 Farm Bill, USDA is making a historic investment of more than $78 million to support farmers markets and local and regional food systems.

As state executive director of Missouri Farm Service Agency, I have seen firsthand how farmers markets here in Missouri are helping to support family farms and grow local economies. They bring communities together, connecting cities with the farms that support them and provide the Show-Me state with fresh, healthy food.

In honor of this week and Missouri's farmers and ranchers, here are my top five reasons to shop at a farmers market this week (and every week):

1. You're buying local. Farmers markets bring benefits not only to producers, but to consumers and our local communities as well. When local food marketing opportunities exist for rural producers, they cause ripple effects throughout the rural economy. Farms and ranches buy fertilizer and seed, invest in farm machinery, contract the services of custom operators and support local businesses like restaurants and retailers. Growth in these areas leads to new demand for community services like schools and hospitals, which in turn leads to jobs.

2. Strong local economies. This segment of agriculture is a vibrant growth area that is drawing young people back to rural communities, generating jobs and improving quality of life. Spending our hard-earned money with local businesses helps support Missouri's economy, ensures that more of every food dollar ends up back in a farmer's pocket, and helps keep that money circulating in Missouri.

3. Farmers markets are easy to find.The USDA’s National Farmers Market Directory now lists 8,268 markets across the country, a 76 percent increase since 2008. Here in Missouri, the number of farmers markets has grown to 245. You can find a farmers market near you by typing in your ZIP code at www.ams.usda.gov/farmersmarkets.

4. Talk about options. Farmers markets offer a wide variety of fresh, affordable, convenient and healthy products sold directly from the farm. You can find ideas for how to use your purchases at www.whatscooking.fns.usda.gov.

5. They take plastic. In addition to accepting cash, many farmers markets now take advantage of mobile card readers and can accept credit cards, nutrition program benefits and even gift cards. The directory at www.ams.usda.gov/farmersmarkets lists payment options available at each market.

For more information on National Farmers Market Week and what the USDA is doing to support farmers and ranchers in Missouri, visit www.usda.gov/knowyourfarmer.

Mark Cadle is state executive director of the Missouri Farm Service Agency, a division of the U.S. Department of Agriculture that helps farmers and ranchers find resources and works to improve the economic stability of state agriculture.


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Comments

Mark Foecking August 5, 2014 | 3:07 p.m.

I remain unconvinced that either CFM or BCFM enforces producer-only rules to a significant extent. I know it's difficult to do, and even fairly frequent inspections don't mean a vendor isn't selling produce he didn't grow himself. But it's tough to believe when you see fairly unusual produce sold by several different vendors over the course of a season that all of them grew it themselves.

DK

(Report Comment)
Ellis Smith August 5, 2014 | 5:09 p.m.

Bananas might be suspect, but I'm reminded that at least one agricultural university in these parts grows and harvests bananas (very small crop). Since outside winter temperatures can drop to at least -20F you know those bananas are being grown under "synthetic" conditions, as are some other tropical plants. The purpose of that expensive exercise is to teach students something about tropic plants and tropical agriculture.

But the bananas ARE "locally grown." :)

(Report Comment)

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