MyFarmLife.com

I Love My Farmers Market: Good Food, Good Cause

The American Farmland Trust supports producers and protects land with their annual favorite farmers market contest.

By Nancy Dorman-Hickson | Photos By Byron Gates Jr.

A market in Shreveport, La.

A market in Shreveport, La.

The I Love My Farmers Market Celebration kicks off its summer-long event on June 13. Now in its sixth year, the program, sponsored by the American Farmland Trust (AFT), promotes USDA-listed farmers’ markets across the nation. Customers will be encouraged to pledge dollars online and to follow through with a commitment to shop at their favorite farmers markets.

This is a departure from previous years when shoppers were asked only to cast online votes for their favorites.

Voting attracted attention, says Gretchen Mais with the AFT, “but it didn’t necessarily make the connection in the minds of the people voting that they also needed to support the farmers by shopping. We wanted to go beyond popularity. That’s why we’re asking people to commit to pledging their support and to buying food directly from farmers.”

According to the AFT, for every $10 spent on local food, as much as $7.80 is re-spent in the local community, supporting local jobs and businesses. During the 2013 I Love My Farmers Market Celebration, a total of $259,690 was pledged to be spent at farmers’ markets, the majority of which the AFT calculates went directly to farmers.

The conservation organization’s mission is to promote sound farming practices, keep farmers on the land and generally protect farmland—an acre of which is lost every minute, largely to suburban development. According to farmland.org, the AFT web site, 91% of America’s fruit and 78% of U.S. vegetables are grown near land-hungry metro regions. The National Resources Inventory puts the total annual loss at nearly 1 million farmland acres.

Farmers’ markets connect the public with farms and make customers aware of the need to protect farmland. “Once an acre of farmland is paved over, it’s lost forever,” Mais says. “Many of the farms of farmers’ markets are on the front lines of this loss.” The I Love My Farmers Market Celebration, which is part of AFT’s No Farms No Food® campaign, helps emphasize “how important it is to put money directly into [farmers’] pockets, to help keep them on the land and to keep their operations viable.”

For more information, visit lovemyfarmersmarket.org. There you’ll find a live count of pledges and updated lists of the country’s most celebrated farmers’ markets.