Growing up in Little Rock, Arkansas, all I wanted to do was play kickball with my friends. However, instead of playing kickball, I helped my family cultivate our community garden. The work was hard, the sun was hot, and I just had no interest in fresh vegetables. Today, I am a vegetarian. As a result of working with my family cultivating our community garden, I greatly admire our American farmers who enjoy their work of growing the food we eat.
The United Stated Department of Agriculture (USDA) has proclaimed August 6-12, 2017, as National Farmers Market Week. The proclamation states that farmers markets and other agricultural direct marketing outlets contribute about $9 billion each year to the U.S. economy and “serve as significant outlets by which small-to-medium, new and beginning, and veteran agricultural producers market agricultural products, generating revenue that supports the sustainability of family farms and the revitalization of rural communities nationwide.”
I recently visited the East Point Farmers Market to support the farmers and to understand their farming roots. There were farmers from different cultures, ages, and years of experience, but the common thread between them is their love of farming. Debbie Fraker, a farmer at the market, said, “I have been farming for 5 years. I started out gardening and raising chickens. My grandparents were farmers and Debbie says farming was something she always wanted to do.” Mahendra Jagnandan, was exposed to gardening as an AmeriCorps volunteer. He farmed one garden, fell in love with it, and continued to farm. Mr. Bobby Wilson, the CEO of Metro Atlanta Urban Farm, has been an urban farmer for many decades. He shared his experience and love of farming on the video above and on his website: http://themetroatlantaurbanfarm.com/.
Below are facts published by the Union of Concerned Scientist that illustrate the benefits of farmers markets and local food systems: http://blog.ucsusa.org/karen-perry-stillerman/7-fun-facts-for-national-farmers-market-week
1. There are 8,690 farmers markets listed in the National Farmers Market Directory.
2. US farms sales made directly to consumers via farmers markets were $3 billion in 2015.
3. Participants in the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) redeemed more than $20 million in benefits buying food from local farmers in FY 2016.
4. Three out of four farmers who sell at farmers markets use practices that meet or exceed organic standards.
5. The National Farmers Union estimates that farmers’ share of every dollar Americans spend on food in 2017 is a paltry 15.6 cents.
Visiting the farmers market and talking to the farmers reminded me of my family community garden. Perhaps, now that I realize the benefits of local food systems for farmers, consumers and community, I might start growing vegetables again. Until then, I will continue to support my local farmers. You can also support local farmers. To support farmer’s market in your area, visit the farmers’ market directory at: https://www.ams.usda.gov/local-food-directories/farmersmarkets.