Aug. 5-11 we celebrated National Farmers Market Week. Most of
you are well aware that local food is a vibrant and growing
sector in agriculture. Many consumers seek out food produced in
their towns, states or regions, and this local food -- whether
it's purchased at a farmers market, in a grocery store, at a
restaurant or elsewhere -- is now a multibillion-dollar
Studies conducted across the country have shown the
economic benefits, both direct and indirect, of farmers markets.
According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, about 25
percent of U.S. farmers sell exclusively through farmers
markets. Their commitment and ties to the communities they serve
are linked directly to the success of their businesses.
Think about your own visits to the local market. How many
other errands and purchases due you make in conjunction with a
farmers market visit? What is the impact to the other businesses
in your community?
At an Aug. 3 news conference, Agriculture Deputy Secretary
Dr. Kathleen Merrigan shared information about the 2012 National
Farmers Market Directory. Each year, the annual report shows the
total number of farmers markets reported to be operating
throughout the United States. The national count of farmers
markets was first conducted in 1994. That year, there were 1,755
markets. Last year, USDA reported that 7,175 markets were
operating across the country. This year, they reported that
there are 7,864 markets. There has been a 348 percent increase
in the numbers of farmers markets from 1994 to 2012.
Merrigan reported that Illinois ranks sixth in the nation
with 292 farmers markets. The other top 10 are 1. California,
827 markets; 2. New York, 647 markets; 3. Massachusetts, 313
markets; 4. Michigan, 311 markets; 5. Wisconsin, 298 markets; 7.
Ohio, 264 markets; 8. Pennsylvania, 254 markets; 9. Virginia and
Iowa, tied with 227 markets; and 10. North Carolina, 202
markets. These 10 states account for nearly half, at 49 percent,
of the farmers markets listed in the 2012 directory.
[to top of second column]
For more information about the national directory, check out
The information used in the national directory is collected
by each of the states. In Illinois, this information is compiled
by the Illinois Department of Agriculture, Bureau of Marketing
and Promotions. Only those markets that report are listed in the
To find Illinois markets, go to
On July 24, Lt. Gov. Sheila Simon announced that 41 farmers markets
across Illinois will each receive $1,200 grants from the Illinois
Electronic Benefits Transfer Wireless Project. This program will
enable farmers markets to accept Illinois Link cards wirelessly for
the first time. The Illinois Link cards access federal Supplemental
Nutrition Assistance Program benefits. The markets selected in our
area include Central Park Farmers Market, Decatur; Clinton Area
Farmers and Artisans Market, Clinton; and Old Capitol Farmers
A total of 49 SNAP-certified farmers markets and direct-marketing
farmers accepted Link cards in 2011, according to the United States
Department of Agriculture, up from 15 in 2009. The wireless EBT
project could bring the total to 99, or about one-third of farmers
markets statewide, by this year's end. As people discover the
benefit of buying fresh, nutritious local products, farmers and
farmers markets are seizing the opportunity to broaden their
customer base by adding a SNAP payment option.
Even though summer is coming to a close, we still have a couple
of months to shop at our local farmers markets. In Logan County, the
Farmers' Market - Lincoln and the Lincoln Farmer's Market will both
be open until Oct. 27. In Sangamon County, the Pawnee Farmers Market
will be open until Sept. 27; Illinois Products Farmers' Market will
be open until Oct. 18; and the Springfield Old Capitol Farmers
Market will be open until Oct. 27. Mark your calendar for the Nov.
17 and Dec. 15 Holiday Farmers Markets at the Artisans Building on
the Illinois State Fairgrounds in Springfield.
[By DEBORAH CAVANAUGH-GRANT,
University of Illinois Extension, Logan-Menard-Sangamon Unit]