Consumers today are expressing renewed interest in buying food directly from the farmer or grower. At one time, farmers markets flourished. Over the years, with improved transportation, improved storage facilities and modern mass merchandising, local farmers markets slowly disappeared.
The increasing price of gasoline and other transportation costs, partnered with the consumers' new awareness of the importance of fresh vegetables and fruit in the diet are creating new opportunities for marketing local produce through farmers markets. You don’t realize just what you are missing until you can finally purchase local strawberries. These bright red small gems are sold in the age old balsam quarts they have for generations. The taste is one of sweetness and the earth flavor from which they were picked. Then you truly know why people buy local from farmers markets.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture notes that as of 2010, there are more than 6,100 farmers markets across the country. In 1994, there were only 1,755.
Farmers markets are an ancient method used by farmers worldwide to sell their produce directly to consumers. As U.S. food productio n became increasingly industrialized and specialized, farmers markets were replaced by brokers and supermarkets. In the past two decades, however, farmers markets in the U.S. have rapidly regained popularity.
Farmers find a number of advantages in selling at farmers markets. By selling directly to their customers without going through middlemen, farmers can charge retail prices for their produce. A farmers market is a good place for new growers who are perfecting production skills and learning which products customers want most. In addition, many growers enjoy the interaction with customers and other vendors.
For customers, too, the farmers market is not just a place to buy food, but a social affair. A festive atmosphere helps to bring people to markets, where they can talk with farmers about how the produce was grown and how it can be prepared. Markets are starting up everywhere. Currently in northwest Ohio, the Toledo Farmers Market is downtown, while many other communities across these 18 counties hold one throughout the growing season.
There's much to like about farmers markets: fresh local vegetables and fruits picked at their peak, colorful cut flowers and herbs to add beauty and flavor to the table and the pot; baked goods, fresh eggs and poultry are intermingled with local crafts.
Now is the time to check out your local farmers market to see what local farmers have to offer. Food that is fresh and local fits right into the nationa l dialogue on food and the importance of cutting travel distance to the plate, and knowing where and how the food was grown. Consumers who purchase locally not only help support the farmers in the area, but they are helping the local economy since the money stays here. Local foods have better flavor than the well-traveled, tired varieties sold in grocery stores. If you are not sure, just taste a warm-from-the-field fresh local tomato and compare it to one from the store. So, come on down to the market, any market; the sights and smells of Mother Nature's bounty await those who look for fresh.