Interest in farmers markets is growing*

  By Chris Joyner, USA TODAY

More neighborhood farmers markets, where consumers can buy fruit and
vegetables from local producers, are cropping up across the USA.

Over the past decade, farmers markets have increased 71%, U.S. Department of
show. In July, the department reported that nearly 4,900 markets
operate nationwide, up about 5% from the end of last year.

*FARMERS MARKETS: *Growers reap fruits of

Factors driving the surge include a growing desire by consumers to know more
about food sources, concern over the environment and an increased sense of
community, agriculture experts, farmers and customers say.

"It's perfect for us," Deputy Agriculture Secretary Kathleen Merrigan says.
"We want to find ways to help people live healthier lifestyles and eat more
fruits and vegetables, and increase the economic prosperity for farmers."

Farmers markets got a high-profile boost this month when first lady Michelle
Obama gave a speech at the opening of a market in Washington. Obama has made
locally grown produce part of her push to get Americans to eat healthier by
planting her own garden at the White House.

Lauren Carey, manager of the Peachtree Road Farmers Market in Atlanta, says
it has grown exponentially since it opened in 2007. "We've had phenomenal
response," she says.

Many states report similar growth:

*Massachusetts.* The number of markets rose from 160 last year to 199 now,
a one-year record, says Kate Plourd, spokeswoman for state Department of
Agricultural Resources.

*Illinois. *The state has about 280 markets "and that's growing," says
Delayne Reeves, a marketing representative with the Illinois Department of
Agriculture. "We'll probably be close to 300 by next year," Reeves says.

*Utah.* Farmers markets jumped from 20 last year to 41 today, says Larry
Lewis, spokesman for the Utah Department of Agriculture and Food.

*California. *Dan Best of the California Federation of Certified Farmers'
Markets says certified markets in the state have soared from 429 in 2004 to
645 today. Most of that growth came in the past three years.

Merrigan said the income from markets is "a pretty significant factor" for
small farmers who are the primary vendors, although
show that half of market vendors nationally bring in less than
$500 a month.

Scares over food safety and worries about how trucking produce long
distances adds to global warming have helped spur interest, Reeves says. She
adds that the down economy has made people "more home-centered."

Tony Wood of Sweet Magnolia Farm in Byram, Miss., markets his vegetables at
the state-sponsored market in Jackson. "Everything we bring, we sell," he

Dr. Teri Hamlin
North Region Agriculture Education
Georgia Department of Education
204C Four Towers University of Georgia
Athens, Ga 30602
706-542-3679 / 706-540-0032
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