Consumers looking for great, locally grown produce and “made in California” goods know farmers markets are the place to shop. Locals and visitors love these markets and will travel between several markets and even cities to find the best oranges, apples, lettuce and other items they love to eat fresh. The concept has really taken root and now you can find a farmers market nearly any place you travel in California. In Alameda County, for example, you’ll find over 25 weekly markets!
While we recently found that only about 7% of organic foods make it these farmers markets (most organic produce is sold to grocery stores, etc.), the farmers markets often are California Certified, assuring that the foods are grown in the state.
The number of farmers markets in California grew 25.7 percent last year in California according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The 2011 National Farmers Market Directory, released last week, counted 7,175 markets in the country – a 17 percent increase since 2010. California remains the nation’s leader in farmers markets with 729 locations, up from 580 last year.
Farmers markets have grown substantially since the USDA began compiling its directory in 1994, when it reported just 1,755 markets nationwide. The fastest-growing states for farmers markets this year were Alaska – a 46 percent jump over last year with 35 markets – and Texas, whose 166 markets represented a 38 percent increase.
In California, farmers markets stretch as far north as Crescent City and as far south as Imperial Beach. But a searchable database and map show few locations along the state’s sparsely populated eastern border. Increasing the number of farmers markets, as well as access to them, is one way policymakers and public health advocates are trying to combat obesity and food deserts and promote healthy eating.
Another positive aspect of local markets, however, is the entertainment factor. Many offer vendor craft fairs, musical acts, entertainment, and some even have petting zoos for kids.