Monday, August 3, 2015

Celebrating Farmers Market Week Aug. 2-8

By: Laura Raymond
Small Farm Direct Marketing 

Washington State joins a national celebration of farmers markets with a proclamation by Governor Inslee that this is Washington Farmers Market Week. That’s a proclamation I can get behind, though I hardly need an excuse to celebrate farmers markets. 

A customer visits the Columbia City
Farmers Market in Seattle.
Like many people, I Iove the visual splendor of farm tables piled high with vibrant displays. I enjoy the happy energy of kids munching on ripe fruit while they bob to a market band. It’s fun to catch up with friends and neighbors as we bump into each other with market bags full of produce, flowers, cheeses, meats, baked goods, pastas, eggs, jams, salsas, ciders, and other tasty treasures.

That experience is a celebration in itself yet, as farmers market organizations suggest, “there’s more to market” than just the weekly festivities.  
EBT cards are accepted at many markets.
Farmers markets supply a host of benefits that improve quality of life for us all. They support rural livelihoods and preserve farmland. They stimulate local economies by supporting artisans, prepared food businesses, and other vendors while also promoting sales for neighboring businesses. Market sales in Washington are estimated at nearly $45 million dollars in 2014, money that circulates longer in the local economy. Farmers markets are vibrant community spaces where we connect with friends and neighbors. They even make us all a little bit healthier with better access to fresh foods. Nearly all Washington markets accept federal nutrition benefits.

In my work at WSDA Small Farms and Direct Marketing, I get a firsthand view of how important farmers markets are to family farms of all types. More than 1,200 Washington farmers sell their products at 160 farmers markets across our state, in big cities and small rural communities. 

Farmers markets allow customers to
meet the people growing their food.
For new farmers, farmers markets provide a crucial entry point to introduce their products, build a customer base, and plant a first foothold to grow their business. Even for long-established farms, farmers markets can be a crucial element in their success. The young man who sold me blueberries at my local market this past week is the fifth generation on his family’s Skagit Valley farm and farmers markets are a primary way they sell their produce. At farmers markets, farmers sell directly to their consumers, earning full value for their products. This is especially important at a time when so many farmers are being extraordinarily challenged by the drought and hot weather.

Farmers markets offer a unique opportunity for producers and customers to talk with each other face-to-face. Customers can share their preferences and learn all about what goes into getting such a wonderful array of products to market.  

There’s a lot to a farmers market, and a lot to celebrate. Washington Farmers Market Week is a great time to show a little love for your nearest market and its farmers. Washington State Farmers Market Association’s directory  can help you find a market near you.