Fair week good time to cel­e­brate farm­ers

Record Observer - - Opinion -

Gov. Larry Ho­gan has de­clared Aug. 6-12 as Farm­ers Mar­ket Week in Mary­land to co­in­cide with Na­tional Farm­ers Mar­ket Week. It seems only fit­ting that it also co­in­cides with the 75th an­niver­sary of the Queen Anne’s County 4-H Fair, where our county’s strong farm­ing her­itage is on dis­play all week.

The Mary­land De­part­ment of Agri­cul­ture en­cour­ages cit­i­zens to cel­e­brate the week by vis­it­ing farm­ers mar­kets and buy­ing lo­cal prod­ucts, and we would add a trip to the fair to that sug­ges­tion.

“Farm­ers Mar­ket Week is a great op­por­tu­nity for Mary­lan­ders to get a taste of fresh, nu­tri­tious food grown right here in the state,” said Ho­gan. “Buy­ing lo­cal is a great way to sup­port our state’s agri­cul­ture in­dus­try and pro­mote sus­tain­abil­ity. I en­cour­age all Mary­lan­ders to cel­e­brate this week with a visit to their lo­cal farm­ers mar­ket.”

The grow­ing con­sumer de­mand for lo­cally grown prod­ucts is ev­i­dent at both the state and na­tional level. The USDA’s Agri­cul­tural Mar­ket­ing Ser­vice be­gan the Na­tional Farm­ers Mar­ket Di­rec­tory in 1994. Since then, the num­ber of mar­kets vol­un­tar­ily listed has grown from 1,755 to more than 8,500 across the coun­try.

There are cur­rently more than 140 farm­ers mar­kets in Mary­land — in­clud­ing at least one in each county and Bal­ti­more City. Here in Queen Anne’s County, we have two. The Centreville Farm­ers Mar­ket is open Wed­nes­day af­ter­noons and Satur­day morn­ings in front of the court­house. The Kent Is­land Farm­ers Mar­ket is open Thurs­day af­ter­noons at Christ Church on Ro­man­coke Road.

Th­ese mar­kets are im­por­tant eco­nomic driv­ers for the state’s agri­cul­ture in­dus­try. Mary­land farm­ers mar­kets gen­er­ated $53 mil­lion dol­lars in to­tal sales, with more than 2.3 mil­lion con­sumers vis­it­ing the mar­kets in 2016, ac­cord­ing to a 2016 sur­vey by the Mary­land De­part­ment of Agri­cul­ture and the Mary­land Farm­ers Mar­ket As­so­ci­a­tion.

“With grow­ing de­mand for fresh, lo­cal prod­ucts, Mary­land farm­ers of­fer a va­ri­ety of fresh pro­duce at farm­ers mar­kets across the state,” said Sec­re­tary Joe Barten­felder. “Th­ese mar­kets are an im­por­tant source of in­come for our farm fam­i­lies, and pro­vide an im­por­tant link be­tween the state’s ur­ban and ru­ral com­mu­ni­ties. Buy­ing di­rectly from the farmer gives con­sumers an op­por­tu­nity to learn more about farm­ing and de­velop trust in the in­tegrity and ac­count­abil­ity of our grow­ers.”

Ap­prox­i­mately 400 Mary­land farm­ers also par­tic­i­pate an­nu­ally in the Farm­ers Mar­ket Nu­tri­tion Pro­gram for Women, In­fants, Chil­dren and Se­niors, and the WIC Fruit & Veg­etable Check Pro­gram. About a third of the mar­kets also par­tic­i­pate in the Sup­ple­men­tal Nu­tri­tional As­sis­tance Pro­gram – for­merly known as food stamps. Th­ese pro­grams help ex­pand ac­cess for low-in­come Mary­lan­ders to be able to pur­chase fresh lo­cal pro­duce at Mary­land farm­ers mar­kets.

Na­tional Farm­ers Mar­ket Week fol­lows soon af­ter the Mary­land Buy Lo­cal Chal­lenge week, which Gov­er­nor Ho­gan cel­e­brated with a Buy Lo­cal Cook­out at Gov­ern­ment House on July 20. The Mary­land Depar­ment of Agri­cul­ture hopes that con­sumers will con­tinue to eat lo­cal ev­ery day through­out farm­ers mar­ket week and be­yond.

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