Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today announced that the number of farmers markets in the United States is up more than 13 percent from a year ago. A recent update of the online Farmers Market Directory lists 5,274 markets nationwide, up from 4,685 reported in 2008.

"Farmers markets assure that consumers have easier access to local fruits and vegetables and this growth demonstrates incredible interest consumers have in purchasing from local producers," said Vilsack. "Farmers market also connects the community to the local farmers who produce the fresh food, and play an important role in the direct marketing of produce to local consumers."

USDA's support of farmers markets is just one component of the 'Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food' initiative to help develop local and regional food systems and spur economic opportunity. By successfully restoring the link between consumers and local producers there can be new income opportunities for farmers and wealth can be generated that will stay in rural communities. There also can be a greater focus on sustainable agricultural practices and families can better access healthy, fresh, locally grown food.

Since USDA's Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) began to track farmers markets in 1994, the number has grown by nearly 4,000 nationwide. A national directory of farmers markets is available from USDA.

For a Drovers article about a group of ranchers successfully marketing their branded beef products through farmers markets, see “Tapping the local market”.

For the full release from USDA, click here.