|Washington, D.C., October 5, 2009 —With the recent announcement from Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack that the number of farmers markets in the country increased by 13 percent from last year, American Farmland Trust applauds the many communities and consumers reaching out for fresh food and supporting their local farmers and farmland. Farmers and consumers connected at 5,274 farmers markets this year, up from 4,685 in 2008.
“This growth in the number of farmers markets is a good indicator of just how important local farms and food are to people today,” says Julia Freedgood, managing director of AFT’s Growing Local initiative. “Farmers markets play a crucial role in bringing fresh food to areas where it’s not always available. And by getting to know the farmers who grow their food, people are able to better understand where their food comes from, something that is hard to do in most grocery stores. This relationship between farmer and consumer underscores the fact that food comes from farmland nearby, and how without that land there would be no food.”
American Farmland Trust launched a national online contest this summer so consumers could vote for their favorite farmers markets. This contest also illustrated several key concepts including AFT’s “No Farms No Food” message and the importance of farmers markets to local economies, access to healthy food, farmland protection and the environment.
“Not only does this mean the number of farmers markets has increased,” adds Stacy Miller, Executive Secretary of the Farmers Market Coalition, “but it also represents growth in the number of people participating in nutrition and food assistance programs, such as SNAP, and in the degree to which communities are building partnerships and connections that support local food systems and access to local food.”
“This is a second Renaissance of farmers markets—reminiscent of their growth in the early 1980s,” Freedgood adds. “Pioneers like Barry Benepe, founder of the New York City Greenmarkets, and Fred Winthrop, former commissioner of the Massachusetts Department of Food and Agriculture and AFT founding member, were leaders in building the link between a strong agricultural economy, farmland protection and nutritious food.”
"As AFT enters our 30th anniversary it is important to reflect on past successes but also to look ahead at how to engage a new generation in understanding the importance of protecting farmland. Farmers markets are a great way to accomplish this,” Freedgood concludes.
American Farmland Trust is the nation's leading conservation organization dedicated to protecting farmland, promoting sound farming practices and keeping farmers on the land. Since its founding in 1980 by a group of farmers and citizens concerned about the rapid loss of farmland to development, AFT has helped save millions of acres of farmland from development and led the way for the adoption of conservation practices on millions more.
AFT's national office is located in Washington, DC. Phone: 202-331-7300. For more information, visit www.farmland.org.