NIFA programs support farmers markets nationally

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack has officially declared Aug. 7-13 as the 17th annual National Farmers Market Week, highlighting the key role that farmers markets play in bringing communities together around agriculture.

Across the country, farmers markets are central to many towns and cities. They are community gathering places where America’s food producers build successful businesses and bring fresh, local food to market.

NIFA supports farmers market operations and the communities they serve with programs that translate agricultural research to deliver solutions to communities, foster the next generation of agricultural professionals, and encourage healthy eating among underserved communities. NIFA achieves these outcomes through programs such as cooperative extension, the Beginner Farmer and Rancher Development Program, Community Food Projects, and the Food Insecurity Nutrition Incentive program (FINI).

Community gardens and farmers markets can foster a sense of belonging and create job opportunities in the community. In the city of Anchorage, Alaska, recent refugees have arrived from places like Sudan, Congo, Bhutan, and Southeast Asia. For the past eight years, one group of Bhutanese refugees has collaborated on gardening best practices with Julie Riley, an extension horticulturist with the University of Alaska Fairbanks. Riley is teaching them how to grow and harvest 45 different cool-season vegetables and herbs during the brief, four-month growing season in Anchorage. Most of the training occurs in an 8,000-square foot garden on city parkland. The produce grown is sold at two farmers markets. Sales have ranged from $3,000 to a high of $10,300 in 2014.

With the help of a $30,000 FINI grant, the Aurora’s Farmers Market in Illinois helped local Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) recipients purchase healthier foods through the Fresh First program. All shoppers at the farmers market who used their SNAP card to purchase fruits and vegetables received additional funds to buy even more produce each week. The program reached 112 participants last year, the majority of whom were Hispanic, low-income individuals who faced language and transportation barriers and were unfamiliar with locally grown produce. To overcome these barriers, the Aurora’s Farmers Market introduced a bilingual produce vendor and pop-up market. The market also started a cooking class to teach participants about local produce, educating them on what is grown locally and seasonally available.

Support for farmers markets is just one element of USDA’s broader work to strengthen local and regional food systems in local communities and around the country. This work is coordinated through USDA’s Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food (KYF2) Initiative. Consumers can find local and regional supply chain resources on the newly-revamped KYF2 website and use the KYF2 Compass to locate USDA local food investments in their community.

USDA has invested close to $1 billion since 2008 in 40,000 local food projects that create opportunities for farmers, ranchers, and food businesses, and connect consumers with healthy local food options. Read more about how USDA is celebrating America’s farmers and ranchers on the USDA Results campaign webpage.

Visit the NIFA website for more NIFA impacts or the Land-Grant University Impacts website. Send us your NIFA-funded impacts or share them with USDA_NIFA on Twitter #NIFAimpacts.

NIFA invests in and advances agricultural research, education and extension and seeks to make transformative discoveries that solve societal challenges.

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