One of the joys of summer is the ability to enjoy farm-fresh produce and goods, from strawberries and blueberries to eggs, herbs, honey and grass-fed beef. Across the country, farmers are increasingly congregating to bring the harvest of the season to local residents in their communities.
In celebration, United States Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack proclaimed this week, August 7-13, National Farmers Market Week.
What is the biggest health benefit of buying produce from farmers markets? According to the Farmers Market Coalition, produce loses nutritional value the more time passes from harvest to consumption.
A 2006 USDA survey reported that more than half of vendors travel fewer than 10 miles to sell at farmers markets. More than 85 percent traveled under 50 miles, according to a survey conducted by Farmers Markets Today magazine.
Before fruits and vegetables reach the produce section at your local supermarket, they typically travel more than 1200 miles, over a seven to 14-day period.
Additionally, by increasing consumer access to fresh fruits and vegetables, farmers markets are “promoting child health and potentially reducing childhood obesity,” Vilsack wrote in the July 20 proclamation.
Most farmers markets in Connecticut are affiliated with the Women, Infant, and Children (WIC) Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program and/or the Senior Farmers’ Market Nutrition program, providing WIC clients and seniors access to fresh fruits and vegetables.
According to the Connecticut Department of Agriculture web site, the program, “greatly benefits not only the WIC and Senior clients but also the farmers as it increases the demand for CT Grown products.”
Each day of this week celebrates a different impact farmers markets have on a local community. Sunday focused on community education, Monday on public health and Tuesday will focus on farmers markets as economic engines.
A new study by the Union of Concerned Scientists reports, “Modest public funding for 100 to 500 otherwise-unsuccessful farmers markets a year could create as many as 13,500 jobs over a five-year period.”
“During Farmers Market Week, FMC invites everyone to celebrate the power of farmers markets to teach new skills, improve public health, grow viable local economies, give farmers a seat at the table, feed families in need, grow social capital, and inspire a new generation of farmers,” she says on the coalition’s web site.