Category Archives: farmers markets

Farm Policy Roundup—August 15, 2014

AFT Conference Early-bird Discount has Been Extended to September 1

REGISTER NOW FOR EARLY BIRD RATES!

Register today to save $75 on a 3-day registration!

Join American Farmland Trust and more thtomatoes2an 70 local and national leaders to network, strategize and share best practices to support family farmers, protect farmland and strengthen community food systems. Keynote, plenary and workshop sessions are organized around four cross-cutting themes:

  • Conserving Farmland and Growing Smart
  • Supporting Agriculture and Community Food Security
  • Helping the Next Generation Succeed in Agriculture
  • Promoting Farmland Succession and Access to Land

Join us in Lexington to craft next steps to advance your work in these areas and to enjoy Kentucky’s famous hospitality. Other conference highlights include two bus tours: Urban, Bourbon & Brew and Saving the Bluegrass, a Kentucky Proud reception and Farm Fresh banquet.

Click here for conference program and registration information. Register today to get the early bird discount!
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Farm Policy Roundup—August 8, 2014

U.S. Department of Agriculture Announces RCPP Projects for Full Proposals

rcppblogThe U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) announced that 230 projects will be invited to submit full proposals for program funding under the new Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP). American Farmland Trust is leading or supporting 5 projects in multiple states which are eligible for a full proposal.
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Cultivating Community at Arlington Farmers Market

The Arlington Farmers’ Market is led by a grassroots, volunteer-run organization in the small town in northwestern Washington state. They hand-paint sandwich boards with directions to the market, attend city meetings to cultivate a presence in the community, and they look everywhere–even their own kids’ rooms–for books to read at a story time in the park. It’s fitting, then, that the market was started by farmers looking to expand upon their CSA. Mark and Patricia Lovejoy wanted to bring their fresh, local food to the residents of Arlington, so they simply showcased their produce downtown on Saturdays. Other farmers and crafters joined them. Two years ago the market was turned over to sisters Audrey Houston and Samantha Schuller. The Lovejoy organic produce tent still anchors the market, which has since doubled in size and sales and is recognized as a 2012 winner of the America’s Favorite Farmers Markets™ competition.

Vegetables at Arlington Farmers Market in Washintgon

Vegetables from farmers Mark and Patricia Lovejoy, owners of Garden Treasures. (Photo: Audrey Houston)

The market is focused on locally grown produce. In fact, most produce is grown within about 25 miles of the market, expect for the stone fruits grown on the other side of the mountains in Eastern Washington. Houston, who serves as the market director, said “the most popular items at the market are the tiny ones–berries.” During peak season, shoppers buy flats full of berries for jams, pies, or to eat by the handful.

On any given Saturday during the market, some 800 people will shop at the 13 or so vendors. More vendors join during berry season, but there’s always a variety of goods for the happy shoppers. Residents build relationships with the growers and many parents say they are glad they have the chance to model a healthy lifestyle to their kids by shopping for vegetables, spending time outside, and getting their kids engaged in story time and the free activities, Houston said.

“And maybe most importantly, it’s a community gathering space,” Houston explained. “There aren’t too many places in our culture these days where you can bump into your fellow residents without paying an entrance fee. If you stand in the middle of the market, you’ll hear neighbors greeting each other, friends grabbing some fruit for a picnic at the park, and a lot of laughter.”

The farmers at the market build the same relationships. These personal relationships drive their businesses and customers love the experience of not just knowing, but liking their farmers, Houston said. “Our farmers are people who’ve chosen lives of honest, hard work, who love experiences more than material goods, and who are willing to give up their summer Saturdays to get downtown and make connections within their community,” she added. The market offers growers a unique opportunity to sell to residents. As most grocery stores in the area only purchase food from large growers, the smaller, local farms can use the market downtown as a chance to expand their customer base and it provides an outlet for sales.

The Arlington Farmers’ Market also shares a healthy relationship with other local markets in the area. None of them are in direction competition. Instead, Houston said they build one another up, “the same way that the farmers at Arlington’s market don’t actually compete.” The markets spread the word to people of the importance of eating real food and they stress the need of growing our own food, Houston said. “The more farmers’ markets there are, the faster that change in public perception can happen.”

That grassroots efforts of organizing the market has paid off with the award of best small farmers market. Houston said it’s helped create a buzz in Arlington and the surrounding communities. Organizers plan to build on this success and add new vendors next year, including meat, dairy, prepared foods, and even more farmers.

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Fayetteville Farmers Market, Crown Jewel of the Community

The Fayetteville Farmers Market was founded nearly 40 years ago by a group of active farmers and gardeners looking for an opportunity to sell their goods to the community in the third largest city in Arkansas. The group worked with the community and formed a partnership with the city to host a farmers market on the downtown city square. Now with four markets a week and more than 100 vendors, the Fayetteville market draws over 250,000 visitors eager to purchase local food. The market serves as a regular community event and a gathering location for residents. It’s the place to be on a Saturday morning and the vendors make regular donations back into the community. For these reasons and more, the Fayetteville Farmers Market is one of the winners of this year’s America’s Favorite Farmers Market competition in the large category.

The market started in 1974 and is now open Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturday mornings around the historic Downtown Square. There is also a smaller Sunday market held at the Botanical Garden right along the Lake Fayetteville pedestrian trail. The Saturday market is known as the “Crown Jewel of Fayetteville,” and comes to life with street performers on every corner, local musicians, and community organizations and politicians promoting their projects and positions.

“It’s a family outing as well as a place to meet up with friends,” said Lori Boatright, the market’s Public & Media Coordinator. “It’s not just a place to buy the freshest food available, it’s a party every weekend.”

The entertainment and community vibe is not the only thing that draws people to the market, it’s also the locally grown and produced food. There are several produce vendors, while meat vendors sell beef, chicken, lamb, pork, and eggs. You’ll also find a variety of trees, plants, and shrubs, including some native species. The northwest of Arkansas offer a long and diverse growing seasons; farmers grow a variety of berries, apples, pears, and peaches, and more than 20 varieties of tomatoes. Eggplant and bok choy are regularly available and the market is proud to offer one of the only Animal Welfare Approved farms in the state.

“What began as a place for people to access local food has become the place to be on Saturday morning,” Boatright said. “The community has a very special place in their heart for the market. The market is also proud of our community partnerships with the city and with other area businesses and non-profits.”

Market organizers work hard to raise awareness of food insecurity in the community while vendors have donated more than 20,000 pounds of produce this season to local food pantries and kitchens. The market also plays an important role in the economic development of the community with monies spent in the community staying in the community. For the vendors, the market offers a place to sell their goods, but it’s also a place for educational opportunities and food safety information.

“We are so proud to be America’s Favorite Farmers’ Market,” Boatright said. “We hope that this title assists us in bringing even more awareness to small scale agriculture and its place in our communities.” Market organizers are also looking to expand opportunities to offer customers in other parts of town access to locally grown food.

Also, be sure to check out The Food Network show, The Great Food Truck Race, and their visit to the Fayetteville Farmers’ Market.

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Sulphur Spring Farmers Market Pairs Live Music with Local Food from Local Farms

The Sulphur Springs Farmers Market offers a unique shopping experience in the revitalized downtown area in eastern Texas. Not only can you purchase local produce straight from growers, but you can also do so while listening to live music on a Saturday night. Fresh strawberries, watermelons, pumpkins, tomatoes, cucumbers, and peaches are ripe in season and area farmers are quick to show off their favorite picks of the week. The market, as it’s known to locals, serves as a gathering point for the community. With strong support from their regular customers, the Sulphur Springs Farmers Market won the American Farmland Trust’s 2012 America’s Favorite Farmers Market contest in the midsize category.

“We are all very excited about the award,” said Shane Shepard, Community Development Director, City of Sulphur Springs. “We felt we would be a winning contender.” But the award verified their hard work and dedication.

Sulphur Springs, Texas Farmers Market video

Watch a video about the Sulphur Springs Farmers Market

Located about an hour east of Dallas, the rural area is peppered with markets. Local farmers often have to pick where to sell their fruits, vegetables, and meats. Organizers at Sulphur Springs saw the opportunity of hosting a market Saturdays from 6 to 10 p.m. as a way to allow vendors to sell at two markets in one day. With live music playing during the warm Texas evenings, it’s not uncommon for the hours to extend into midnight.

“We have communities within 20 to 30 miles–who were also in the competition–but everyone was doing their markets on Saturday morning,” Shephard said. “So we decided to do an evening market instead. Then we encouraged vendors to go ahead and do the other markets. Hopefully it helps the citizens of other towns and also the vendors because they have two chances to sell.”

About four years ago the city started a revitalization project in the downtown district. It was modeled on new urbanism, with narrower streets, and more walking areas. Part of the project was to create shopping neighborhoods full of foot traffic. A downtown farmers market fit perfectly into the new design.

In the first three years, the market was growers only and served as a way to bring fresh food to community members. There are several big agriculture producers in the area, but not as many small farmers. This led the market to shift away from a strict growers-only focus, though this move has indirectly helped the farmers who sell their produce because customers that came for prepared food or artwork also purchase fruits and vegetables.

The market offers one of the only venues in the area that allows residents to buy food straight from growers, so they know what’s in season and what to expect in the coming weeks. Given the rural proximity, residents have to travel quite a distance for healthy food. “This is our way of getting healthy food to consumers,” Shepard said. The Saturday evening market is more than just an opportunity for farmers to sell healthy foods directly to the consumers, it also serves as a promotional tool. One farmer grows delicious strawberries. Shepard said people couldn’t get enough. “People liked it and didn’t want to wait so they found where he was located and they visited him often.”

With an award under their belts, organizers are hoping to build on their momentum and be an even more defining part of the community. Shepard said he’s hoping to partner with the other local markets to create a coalition. “There’s a little competition from the different markets,” he said. “We’re hoping the surrounding towns try to beat us considering how good we did this year.”

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Year-round Local Food Finds at One of America’s Favorite: Winter Garden Farmers Market

The city of Winter Garden, Florida, is so supportive of its local agriculture that it bought and set aside land close to the downtown area specifically for farming and community gardens.  So it makes sense that residents are enthusiastic about the Winter Garden Farmers Market. Set in the charming city center, along brick roads and the pavilion, the market offers residents a chance to interact with local farmers and learn about their food. Patrons are extremely enthusiastic that their votes helped secure the Winter Garden Farmers Market a top spot in the American Farmland Trust’s 2012 America’s Favorite Farmers Market competition.

You can find just about anything at the Winter Garden Farmers Market, from fresh produce, organic meats and eggs, and goods made from locally grown foods. Winter Garden is located just outside Orlando and the climate allows for year-round growing. Florida is renowned for its citrus, so you don’t have to look far at the market to find your favorite variety of oranges, lemons, or tangerines. Fall is one of the best growing seasons for the area, so residents will have an opportunity to enjoy delicious herbs, beets, and even strawberries into the holiday season and beyond.

The market is about four years old. It has moved around to different locations but now has a perfect spot near the pavilion and bike paths, said Shannon Heron, project manager. “The downtown merchants association worked hard to make the old downtown very active and vibrant,” she said. “It has the real great old town feel and it pulls people into the downtown. It’s really an incredible location.”

On any given Saturday at the market you’ll find kids playing in the newly installed splash pad to stay cool, dog owners shopping for pet treats, and families enjoying freshly squeezed juice from local citrus. Patrons are completely loyal to their market and many come early in the morning to get the freshest produce. Musicians frequent the market to entertain shoppers and play games with kids. “It’s a really friendly, open sort of vibe,” Heron said.

The vendors also have a tight community. They help each other out if they are short on staff and they work closely with the downtown merchants. “Our produce guys are so busy,” Heron said. “They all watch out for each other.”

The market is home to a third-generation farmer. Through a partnership with the city, he farms about 10 acres of land owned by the city of Winter Garden. Dana Brown, market manager, said the city plans to set aside another 40 acres for others to farm, as well. The city recently bought about 100 acres, which will be set aside for parks and farmland. Brown said the city planner is a visionary with preserving local farmland and the community is in full support. There is even a community garden for residents to grow on their own plots of land.

“This is a new thing for the community, but they are just going with it,” Brown said. “There isn’t a lot of red tape. The city just said let’s do it right and do it big. They are very progressive.”

One of the local farmers plans to host a corn harvest festival to help celebrate the award from AFT. It will give residents a chance to see where their food is produced but they will also celebrate the fall harvest with tractor rides and a corn maze.

The organizers will continue to come up with interesting ways to promote their local growers and merchants and encourage the community to come out and enjoy the wide assortment of goods and food offered at the market. The goal is to build off the success from winning the America’s Favorite Farmers Market award and continue to encourage residents to support the local farmers.

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In Praise of Farmers Markets

It’s National Farmers Market Week, just in time for everyone to enjoy the bounty of summer’s last fruits and vegetables.

To kick off the week-long celebration, the USDA unveiled the growth of farmers market listed in the National Farmers Market Directory, which now shows that there are now 7,175 farmers markets across the country. With 17 percent more markets than last year, the more than 1,000 new markets represent an unprecedented increase.

Why Celebrate Farmers Markets?

Communities are embracing farmers markets and the mounds of fresh produce and other farm products that they provide locally. (Check out the Top 100 farmers market photos from Real Time Farms for a mouth-watering glimpse of farmers market offerings.) But farmers markets usher forth more than healthy farms, healthy food and healthy communities.

In his proclamation to ring in this year’s National Farmers Market Week, Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack pointed to a number of key benefits. Farmers markets:

  • Serve as an important outlet for direct farm-to-consumer connections;
  • Provide access to fresh, healthy food, an opportunity that is increasingly being made available for SNAP and other nutrition assistance recipients; and,
  • Help support and develop local and regional food systems.

The growth and support for farmers markets helps keep farmers on the land. Direct farm-to-consumer business helps to provide income opportunities for farmers.

At the same time, the rising interest for local food straight from the farm highlights the urgent need to protect farmland to meet that demand! The USDA National Farmers Market Directory lists the top states for growth and the total number of markets. Texas ranked second in growth from 2010 with a 38 percent increase behind Alaska at 46 percent. However, Texas ranks highest for farmland loss at nearly three million acres (from 1982 to 2007), and has been losing more than 360 acres of farmland per day. Similarly, California, which has the most farmers markets in the directory at 729, ranks second for farmland loss and has been losing more than 135 acres per day.

Shopping at farmers markets is one of the best ways to support farms, farmers and local economies.

American Farmland Trust holds the annual America’s Favorite Farmers Markets™ contest to raise national awareness about the importance of buying fresh food from local farms and saving the farmland where it’s grown. As part of the America’s Favorite Farmers Market contest, we have released a real-time listing of the top 20 markets in the country. Vote for your favorite markets and keep track of how they do!


About the Author: Gretchen Hoffman is Manager of Engagement and Communications at American Farmland Trust.  She can be reached at ghoffman@farmland.org.

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Top Five Favorite Farmers Markets in Your State

We’ve released the state-by-state vote counts revealing the five markets in each state that are leading the America’s Favorite Farmers Markets™ competition.

Farmers markets in 49 states and the District of Columbia are competing in the third annual contest for America’s Favorite Farmers Markets that began June 1 and runs throughout the summer.  On August 31, four winning markets—one large, one medium, one small, and one boutique—will receive the title of America’s Favorite Farmers Market for 2011.  For the first time this year, the market in each state with the most votes will also receive a prize.

“This is one of the most exciting moments in the contest,” said American Farmland Trust President Jon Scholl.  “It’s fun to find out which markets are leading in each state.  However, as we’ve seen in previous years, anything can happen between now and August 31 when the online voting closes.”

According to contest rules, farmers market customers can vote for as many participating farmers markets as they choose, but they can only vote for each market once.

The contest is designed to promote the value of farmers markets in communities, and to help shoppers make the connection between fresh local foods and the local farms and farmland that supply them.

“There would be no local food without local farms and farmland,” Scholl added. “People can make a real difference in the economic health of their communities by shopping at farmers markets, participating in CSAs and buying direct from the farm.”

Throughout the contest, we are providing participating markets with tools that help them get out the vote through a variety of mediums such as blogs, widgets and e-mail. Sponsors of the 2011 contest include Epicurious.com, Websticker.com, and Square.

For more information about the America’s Favorite Farmers Markets contest or to vote, visit www.farmland.org/vote.

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San Francisco Airport’s Farm-to-Flight – Green and Local

Bustling processions of anxious travelers packed into security lines at an airport are a far cry from the quiet farm fields of crops arranged neatly in rows. However, at San Francisco International Airport, the renovation of Terminal 2 has taken a big step in showing how these two can bend closer together.

The initiative is the first of its kind in the United States, with the airport terminal exclusively seeking vendors who serve locally sourced, healthy food. To date, three quarters of the food offerings in Terminal 2 are comprised of local fare. Included in the local food corridor is Napa Farms Market, a 5,000-square-foot marketplace featuring products from  Bay Area farms. The crisp and airy Napa Farms Market was designed by the same architects behind the renovation of the Ferry Building Marketplace, a tourist destination and home of the well-known San Francisco farmers market highlighting the wealth of agriculture in the region.

The premiere of a farm-to-flight travel experience is a natural fit in California, the nation’s biggest agricultural producer. Our San Francisco foodshed report, Think Globally, Eat Locally, found that agriculture within the Bay Area alone produces 20 million tons of food annually. It is enough to feed the city and surrounding region and, increasingly. the momentum of the local food movement is drawing attention from public and private institutions seeking to source food locally.

A similar farm-to-flight effort on a smaller scale was launched in February at the Silver Diner at Baltimore/Washington Thurgood Marshall airport. The retro exterior of the neon-lit restaurant has more of a 1950s look than a present-day farm feel, but its burgers and buns are purchased from sustainable, local sources. The shift has seasonal restrictions in the nation’s capital where fresh produce is difficult to find in the surrounding region during the winter months. Still, everything from local milk to bread to eggs fill the menu throughout the year.

These and other initiatives to bring local foods into hubs of international travel seek to offer alternative food choices. In return, they expose visitors—whether stopping in on a short layover or on an extended stay—to unique elements of local culture and history. The newly renovated Terminal 5 at Los Angeles International Airport is planning to bring a version of the farmers market on Third and Fairfax in Los Angeles. Dairy farmer turned oil-tycoon Arthur Fremont Gilmore started the iconic market to help farmers during the Great Depression, and it has been serving the city every since, including such famous patrons as Walt Disney and Lucille Ball.

The budding interest in farm-to-flight options has yet to reach a scale where it truly impacts the economic viability of local farms. Nevertheless, these new opportunities are providing a way for travelers to slow down for a moment, take a bite, and use their purchases to support local farmers while savoring the cornucopia of flavors surrounding them.


About the author: Erica Goodman is the Communications Associate with American Farmland Trust.

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The Quest to Find America’s Favorite Farmers Markets!

It’s summertime and that means two things: 1) There are loads of delicious farm fresh produce available at farmers markets all around the country, and 2) American Farmland Trust has kicked off the third annual America’s Favorite Farmers Markets contest!

The contest is a nation-wide challenge for communities to rally support for their farmers markets. The goal is to promote the connection between fresh, local food and the farms and farmland that supply it. When the contest ends on August 31st at midnight, one small, medium, large, and boutique farmers market will win the title of “America’s Favorite Farmers Market” for 2011. The reward for the winning market in each category will be a shipment of No Farms No Food® totebags, a feature article on the award winning foodsite Epicurious.com, and other prizes from our partners and sponsors.

Here is what a few recent voters had to say about why their farmers market is special:

Why should you support farmers markets?

There are many reasons to shop at your farmers market, but one of the most important is the fact that nearly one million acres of farmland get paved over each year – most around cities where there is the greatest demand for food.

Make headlines for your local farmers markets!

Help bring the America’s Favorite Farmers Markets™ contest to your community by spreading the word or writing about the contest on your blog. You can use our free buttons and our new comments widget to spread the word.


About the Author: Gretchen Hoffman is Manager of Engagement and Communications at American Farmland Trust.  She can be reached at ghoffman@farmland.org

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