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Farmers markets growing locally, nationally
Farmers Market
Turlocker Alyssa Epstein and her one-year-old son Nathaniel Evens shop for fresh produce at the Turlock Certified Farmers Market in 2010. - photo by Journal file photo

The practice of loading up on vegetables, fruits, nuts, and other homemade edibles at farmers’ markets is gaining momentum both locally and nationally, according to a new report from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

The USDA’s 2011 National Farmers Market Directory found a 17 percent increase in the number of markets operating in the nation. The annual report indicates a total of 7,175 farmers’ markets operating this year, compared to the 6,132 operating in 2010.

"The remarkable growth in farmers markets is an excellent indicator of the staying power of local and regional foods," said Agriculture Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan. "These outlets provide economic benefits for producers to grow their businesses and also to communities by providing increased access to fresh fruits and vegetables and other foods. In short, they are a critical ingredient in our nation's food system."

The 2011 National Farmers Market Directory results were released in advance of National Farmers Market Week, which takes place from Aug. 7 to 13 as declared by Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack.

Updated market listings were submitted to USDA's Agricultural Marketing Service by farmers’ market managers on a voluntary, self-reported basis between April 18 and June 24, as part of USDA's annual outreach effort. USDA invited market managers to submit desired changes in their market's directory profile as well as new market listings. Information in the directory is also continually updated throughout the year in response to incoming requests.

The report listed the top-10 states for number of recorded farmers markets in 2011 as: California (729 markets); New York (520); Michigan (349); Illinois (305); Ohio (278); Pennsylvania (266); Massachusetts (255); Iowa (237); Wisconsin (231); and North Carolina (217).

Some states have seen rapid growth in the number of farmers’ markets since 2010, especially outside of the Far West and Northeast states, where farmers’ markets are more well-established. The report’s top-10 list for expansion are: Alaska (35 markets, up 46 percent); Texas (166 markets, up 38 percent); Colorado (130 markets, up 38 percent); New Mexico (80 markets, up 38 percent); Indiana (171markets, up 37 percent); Oklahoma (61 markets, up 32 percent); South Dakota (29 markets, up 32 percent); Pennsylvania (266 markets, up 31 percent); Ohio (278 markets, up 31 percent); and Michigan (349 markets, up30 percent).

Closer to home, the Turlock certified Farmers’ Market, which is in its second year, has been gaining in popularity among visitors and vendors alike, said Market Manager Brandon Follett. Weekly attendance has been averaging between 400 to 600 people, with about 1,000 people turning out for the first night market.

“Overall we’re seeing an increase this season,” Follett said of attendance.

The market has also increased the number of vendors. This year the market features more than 40 vendors that come and go as their harvests warrant.

The Turlock Certified Farmers’ Market will celebrate Farmers’ Market Week with a focus on health and wellness. A dental office will be on hand Friday to perform oral cancer screenings and Emanuel Medical Center will be conducting blood pressure checks, Follett said.

To contact Sabra Stafford, e-mail or call 634-9141 ext. 2002.