A farmers’ market is a way people can purchase fresh produce and other products from local farmers and food vendors. According to the United States Department of Agriculture, about 7,175 farmers’ markets operate in the country. This type of market allows consumers to connect directly with locally grown food and the farmers who produce that food.
Early farmers’ markets. The farmers’ market may be able to trace its roots back to ancient Egypt, more than 5,000 years ago. In the United States, cities such as Philadelphia have had farmers’ markets since the early 1700s. The first markets in Philadelphia could be found at the corner of Front and High streets. When farmers brought in produce and goods from the country, they rang a bell located on the shed at these streets to let the townspeople know there were items for sale.
Then and now. Farmers’ markets have survived and thrived over the years because they are one of the easiest ways local growers have of connecting with buyers. Farmers of yesteryear could make money or trade for other goods by bringing their freshly grown produce into town. Today, small farmers can take advantage of organized markets. In Georgia, the state facilitates nine State Farmers’ Markets. These state markets generate more than $1 billion in sales annually.
Farmers’ market products. The products available at a farmers’ market will vary depending on geographical location and the time of year. However, most patrons of the market will be able to find a variety of locally grown vegetables and fruits. Some markets will have farm fresh eggs and locally raised and butchered meats. Fresh cut flowers, plants and homemade items such as honey from local bees, jams and preserves may be available as well. The Urbana Market at the Square in central Illinois is one of the largest in the state. More than 150 vendors offer an array of locally grown items as well as crafts, pottery and handmade clothing. The festive farmers’ market also features food vendors and even entertainment.
Finding a farmers’ market. You can find a farmers’ market in your area by checking the ads in your local paper or visiting your city’s website. Another way to locate area farmers’ markets is through LocalHarvest.org, which offers listings and links to markets throughout the United States. In addition, you can click on the calendar for listings for food events for any day of the month. Through Local Harvest, you also can find information and links for many of the small farms through the country. This is a great way to learn more about where your food is coming from when shopping for local produce.