Fair week good time to celebrate farmers
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.