Just last month, USDA Deputy Secretary Chuck Conner, on behalf of the Farmers Market Consortium, released the Farmers Market Resource Guide, which for the first time ever lists grants, programs and other financial and information resources available from public and private organizations for farmers markets. This guide seeks to assist the growing number of farmers – over 66,000 in 2000 – who are selling at farmers markets, and others who are considering the benefits of capturing more of the “food dollar” through selling directly to consumers.
“At Farm Bill Forums across the country, producers supported farmers markets as an additional opportunity to offer consumers fresh produce and increase their income,” said Conner. “The Farmers Market Resource Guide provides an important resource that will help to promote farmers markets by sharing practical information about funding and other resources that are available.”
Developed by the newly formed Farmers Market Consortium (FMC), which includes the USDA as a major partner, the guide contains information about each participating agency or foundation and gives details about more than 100 projects and grants available to help start or improve farmers markets.
USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service took the lead in forming the FMC, which is a public and private partnership dedicated to helping promote farmers markets. In addition to USDA, the consortium includes the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the Ford Foundation, the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, the Project for Public Spaces and several farmers market non-profit groups.
Direct marketing of farm products through farmers markets is an important sales outlet for agricultural producers nationwide. Farmers markets continue to rise in popularity, mostly due to the growing consumer interest in obtaining fresh products directly from the farm. There are currently more than 3,700 farmers markets operating in the United States, offering consumers farm-fresh, affordable, convenient and healthy products, while helping farmers supplement their income.
The Farmers Market Resource Guide, which will be periodically updated, is available online at http://www.ams.usda.gov/. A printed copy can be obtained by contacting the Agricultural Marketing Service, Marketing Services Branch, 1400 Independence Avenue, SW, Room 2646, South Bldg., Washington, DC 20250, 202-720-8317.