“The looming economic recession that kept Americans on the edge of their seats for the past months has been entirely and unexpectedly averted by an infusion of revenue generated at local farmers markets,” said a grinning Ben Bernanke, chairman of the Federal Reserve.
I try to do most of my shopping at a farmers markets. I like walking around, outside and picking out my fresh fruits, vegetables, eggs, meats and dairy products. I also think that the food at farmers markets is are healthier, fresher and better for the environment. Some where in my head I think that I am helping the farmers that I meet every week when I go to the farmer’s market. But since my natural meat stand did so poorly when I worked at a green market I never really thought about what kind of impact my purchases were having on their livelihood or the American economy in general.
Amy Farnsworth is a staff writer at The Christian Science Monitor and her recent post talks about an increase in the number of farmer’s markets open during the winter months. She says, “This desire is one of the main reasons farmers’ markets are increasing, up some 300 in the two years between August 2006 and 2008, as the total number surpassed 4,500 according to the US Department of Agriculture. And it’s helping sustain about 750 farmers’ markets that operate between the months of November and March.”
750 farmers – that’s a lot. Maybe it doesn’t sound like a lot but according to the USDA there were more than 6 million farms in the United States prior to 1950. Currently there are roughly 2 million farms in the United States. Statistically, an increase of 750 farms is not huge, but it is reversing a trend that has been occurring for more than 5o years.
More specifically wisbusiness.com reported, “consumers in southwest Wisconsin spend $208 million buying food from outside the region. If consumers purchased 25 percent of their food directly from local farmers, it would produce $33 million of new farm income every year. That would offset current farm losses.” This model only requires that people purchase 25% of their food from farmers. I’m not sure how realistic it is to think people will purchase much more than this, but even if people only purchase 25% locally the implications are huge.
So, farmer’s markets are helping farmers, which is important because farms made less money in 2008 than they did in 1929. However, farmers make up a very small percentage of our work force and a recent study conducted by Iowa State University for the Iowa Farmers’ Market Association reports that farmers markets in the state contributed up to $20 million in sales to the economy and created another $12 million in direct and indirect economic activity.
Who knew that eating healthy and fresh foods that were good for the environment could be so “patriotic”? So to do my part, I am personally going to try and buy at least 25% of my food from farmers markets. And I think you should do the same.