Washington State's farmer's markets continue to rise in popularity, says the state's Department of Agriculture. Statistics show that last year shoppers made almost 1.8 million trips to a local farmers market, many of them return visits.
In recognition of the strong support shown for markets by both consumers and farmers, Washington Governer Chirs Gregoire, the Washington State Department of Agriculture and the Washington State Farmers Market Association will be celebrating Farmers Market Week in Washington from August 5 to 11.
“Washington’s farmers produce some of the best agricultural products around the world,” Governer Gregoire said in a press release. “From our world famous apples to our varied field greens, the goods produced in our stateare second to none. And those who live here have easy access to these quality foods. I encourage all Washingtonians to take part in Farmers Market Week and enjoy this fine produce, while supporting our local farmers and small businesses.”
Figures provided by the Washington State Department of Agriculture show that farmers markets belonging to the Washington State Farmers Market Association reported $39.6 million in sales in 2011, a slightl increase from the nearly $39 million reported in 2010.
The Department of Agriculture also notes that dozens of other farmers markets that are not members of the WSFMA also generate significant sales, and that those dollars go directly to Washington family farmers and the local community.
“Consumers will find delicious high quality produce and food products at any of Washington’s farmers markets,” said Dan Newhouse, WSDA director, in a press release. “Farmers selling at these markets are the face of agriculture for most people. They show just how important agriculture is for our communities large and small.”
Farmers market leaders say they support the growth of markets across the state and want to find ways to improve how markets operate to better serve shoppers.
“We’ve been working hard to support farmers and market managers while creating more opportunities for residents to purchase great, fresh, local foods,” said Karen Kinney, interim executive director of the WSFMA, in a press release. “I’m thrilled that we continue to get national recognition in the media for the quality of so many of our farmers markets. If you haven’t been to a farmers market, come see what it’s about.”
Finding a way to making it easier for markets and vendors to accept shoppers’ electronic cards and food-assistance benefits for food purchases has been a priority for the association.
The association says that consumers find it easier to make purchases without carrying a lot of cash. Almost 90 percent of WSFMA member farmers markets accept checks from participants in the WIC Farmers Market Nutrition Program (Women, Infants and Children FMNP), 84 percent accept Senior FMNP checks, and 54 percent feature wireless point-of-sale terminals capable of processing SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program or food stamps) benefits through an electronic benefits transfer system.
“Accepting these federal program checks and cards, as well as credit and debit cards, are significant steps to meet shopper needs,” Kinney said in a press release. “Washington is a leader in efforts to increase access to healthy food for more of our residents, especially low-income families.”
The is on 133rd Ave. NE, right beside City Hall. The farmers market is Saturdays, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. until Fall.
--Information from the Washington State Department of Agriculture