Promotion for local farmers markets has received a hand from the Department of Agriculture, or USDA, when the department declared the week of Aug. 7-13 as National Farmers Market Week.
Michael Jarvis, a USDA spokesman, said the purpose of the week was to increase awareness of the 7,175 farmers markets around the country.
“There’s a lot of publicity that comes with National Farmers Market Week,” Jarvis said. “One of the things we’re trying to do is stress the importance of these markets.”
Jarvis said the number of registered farmers markets in the country increased by about 17 percent last year, and in Michigan, those numbers increased by about 29 percent. The growth of these communities is something that warranted a week of recognition, he added.
“We’re trying to promote that (growth) and make people realize that there are opportunities to buy local foods,” Jarvis said.
Market Manager for Westside Farmers’ Market, 829 W. Saginaw St., in Lansing, Annette Sokolnicki said it was a good sign that farmers markets had grown popular enough to justify National Farmers Market Week.
“It’s fabulous that there’s enough interest that National Farmers Market Week is possible,” she said. “It’s nice to see this micro-culture of buying directly from the farmers.”
National Farmers Market Week does more than just promote the culture, Sokolnicki added. She said there is a lot of confusion about what a farmers market is because many people believe farmers markets are solely for farmers, and promotion from National Farmers Marker Week helps educate those who are confused.
Sokolnicki said NorthWest Initiative, the group behind the Westside Farmers’ Market, did their part to parallel the promotional efforts put forth by the USDA by putting up flyers for the market.
Travis Nightengale, a farmer from Charlotte, Mich., attends about six different farmers markets each week. He said that, although he had not noticed a large difference in this week’s markets compared to those prior, any publicity that advertises the markets is good for his business.
“I’m trying to make a living, and that’s where the farmers markets come in,” Nightengale said. “So it’s important that the community knows that we’re here.”
Nightengale’s concerns are something that Jarvis and the USDA understand when promoting National Farmers Market Week.
“We do a lot of outreach, publicize it and encourage everyone to go to farmers markets,” Jarvis said. “(Consumers) get good food. Farmers get business. So it’s kind of a win-win for everyone.”