RALEIGH, N.C. — What comes to mind when you think of “farmers markets?” Ripe seasonal produce, colorful flowers, freshly baked bread, and music? While local farmers markets can have a direct positive impact on your weekend morning, they also make a huge impact on our broader community and local food system. In fact, farmers markets’ role in building healthy communities and prosperity for farmers and small businesses has made the USDA proclaim the first week of August, National Farmers Market Week! For the last 23 years, we’ve celebrated Farmers Markets at the peak of summer. This year on August 7-13th, join farmers markets across North Carolina and the country in celebration by visiting a local farmers market and thanking a farmer!
Farmers markets serve as a vital source of community connection and stability, offering fresh food and outdoor spaces to gather. Farmers markets provide many community opportunities. For example, all market farmers, new and old, use them to build their business. Families access fresh food produced in their community and local businesses and organizations can connect to the public to expand their reach. “Farmers markets are such critical community spaces,” says Maggie Funkhouser, the Market Manager of the Carrboro Farmers’ Market in Carrboro, North Carolina. “Not only can you shop for seasonal produce, artisan goods, and thoughtfully-produced items, you can interact in a social space that provides the opportunity to learn about local agriculture, seasonality, sustainability, and more. Many farmers markets, like ours, also accept SNAP/EBT and FMNP benefits, and we strive to be a space that is vibrant and accessible to all.”
Farmers markets support North Carolina’s small and diversified farms, and circulate money back into our local economy. Each year tens of thousands of farmers sell directly to consumers at farmers markets nationwide. Here in North Carolina, farmers market sales generate about $70 million, according to a recent estimate by local food researchers based on 2017 USDA Ag Census Data. The 2020 Local Food Marketing Practices Survey also noted that approximately 78 percent of all direct market food sales occurred within 100 miles of the farm.
Farmers markets don’t just happen. Behind the fresh food and community connections at local markets is a team of dedicated staff making sure the tents go up each week. The organizations that run farmers markets and the local food systems that support them appreciate community support. In North Carolina, we are lucky to have over 230 farmers markets across the state. Farmers market managers, vendors, and board members put in countless hours to make markets accessible and enjoyable for all consumers. They find funding for food access programs, learn new technology to make payment convenient for consumers, coordinate logistics with local governments to manage traffic and events, and so much more. All of this to support our thriving agricultural economy and culture across the state.
You can support your local farmers market by making it a habit to shop at your local market and enjoying the special events organized by the market. It takes a lot of human power, resources, and organization to bring your local market to fruition every market day. Showing up and shopping at your local market will help keep this valuable resource in your community. This National Farmers Market Week, visit or donate to your local market. Farmers markets across North Carolina will be celebrating National Farmers Market Week with special events and promotions. You can find your local market on the VisitNC Farms App or through your local Extension Office.
–Hannah Dankbar, N.C. State Extension