August 4 - 10 is National Farmers Market Week. Farmers markets are expanding to communities across the nation at an amazing rate. Since 1994, the number of farmers markets in the USDA National Farmers Market Directory has more than quadrupled.
Last year the number of farmers markets reached 7,864 and this year that number will most likely top 8,000 by a considerable margin when the results of the annual directory update are announced this week as a part of the USDA celebration of National Farmers Market Week.
Farmers markets are good for rural communities. They bring farmers and consumers together, create a stronger local economy, provide consumers with fresh, nutritious, affordable local food, and create opportunities for family farmers and ranchers — especially beginners — to diversify their operations and sell what they produce.
Make sure you visit your local farmers market this week and return often. To find a farmers market near you check out the USDA National Farmers Market Directory (http://search.ams.usda.gov/farmersmarkets/).
A quick search of the site shows a listing for a farmers market in Hotchkiss. However, local shoppers will find farmers markets in Cedaredge on Saturdays and Delta on Wednesdays and Saturdays. In addition, local producers often have convenient roadside stands set up.
If your farmers market is not listed, there is an easy way online to add it to the USDA Farmers Market database.
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If you don't have a farmers market nearby, you can help create one in your community. Get started by calling the Center for Rural Affairs at (402) 687-2100 and asking for the Farm Bill Helpline and then check out USDA's Farmers Market Promotion Program (http://www.ams.usda.gov/fmpp/), which provides an excellent opportunity for market farmers, market gardeners and rural communities to establish and promote farmers markets and other direct-to-consumer food marketing.