CHARLESTON, W.Va. — National Farmers Market Week is August 2-8, 2015. In celebration, the West Virginia Farmers Market Association (WVFMA) is inviting everyone in the state to visit their local West Virginia farmers markets and support their local economies and farmers. The WVFMA is asking attendees at markets across the state to raise awareness of their community’s market by taking “selfies” in their farmers markets holding a print-out sign (available from wvfarmers.org/fmweek) and upload those pictures to social media using the hashtag #MoretoMarketWV.
Farmers markets are more than just an outlet for fresh produce and friendly farmers. According to United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) statistics, these grassroots venues have increased in number by over 60 percent since 2009 to nearly 8,500 today. These markets preserve farmland, stimulate local economies, increase access to fresh nutritious food, improve community health, and promote sustainability. For example, growers selling locally create thirteen full time farm operator jobs per $1 million in revenue earned while those that do not sell locally only create three. The Farmers Market Coalition recently released a series of fact sheets detailing the many other impacts of markets. West Virginia is home to 93 farmers markets at over 112 locations. The West Virginia Farmers Market Association recently released a WV farmers market report card that shows a few brief but interesting facts about the state’s farmers markets.
The West Virginia Farmers Market Association began in 2007 and currently has 57 member markets across the state selling a wide variety of products. In 2014, West Virginia’s farmers markets generated and estimated 9 million dollars in annual sales for local producers, a valuable economic boost for the state, and hosted over half a million customers. “Farmers markets stimulate the local economy, while allowing producers to receive a larger percent of the premiums earned,” says Jeremy Grant, Executive Director of the West Virginia Farmers Market Association. “Many consumers are unaware that only 16 cents of every dollar spent on agricultural products goes to the farmer. By purchasing locally grown foods, consumers are supporting a local business and the local economy.”
“Famers markets are essential for connecting consumers directly with producers,” says Grant. “As society has become more disconnected with their food source, the understanding and appreciation for food and food producers have decreased. By bringing fresh, nutritious, locally grown products to consumers, they are not only getting a quality product, but they are also getting education.”
“Farmers markets play a vital role in forming healthy, local food systems,” says Jen Cheek, Executive Director of the Farmers Market Coalition. “By providing the opportunity for farmers to connect directly with consumers, markets serve as education centers. Vendors are teaching customers about agriculture, sharing recipes, and exposing them to new foods. Markets are making people and communities stronger and healthier.”
If you are interested in finding a farmers market in your local community, visit the USDA’s Farmers Market Directory (http://search.ams.usda.gov/farmersmarkets/) for a list of farmers market locations.