Farmers’ Market Benefits Our Local Economy
By Mickey Howley
I’m sure you have heard the line about lies and statistics. So I won’t repeat it here, plus the editorial staff at the Herald likes me to keep the column “clean”. Many statistics come from federal agencies that we sometimes love to hate.
While many might dislike the IRS, especially after last week, my own personal least favorite federal agency is FEMA. But some agencies you really want to trust, like the FAA. Some like the Department of Agriculture, where my mom worked for 52 years as a research chemist, are just hard not to like. So whenever I hear information coming from the USDA, I think of mom and automatically trust the numbers.
The latest numbers from the USDA say that there are 5,274 Farmers Markets currently in the United States. For example there were only 1,755 markets in 1994. What is more important is that 46 percent of them were started in the last decade, a 13% increase from 2008 to 2009 alone. That’s a big jump in markets. Why you ask? Here’s what the USDA says:
“Farmers markets are an integral part of the urban/farm linkage and have continued to rise in popularity, mostly due to the growing consumer interest in obtaining fresh products directly from the farm. Farmers markets allow consumers to have access to locally grown, farm fresh produce, enables farmers the opportunity to develop a personal relationship with their customers, and cultivate consumer loyalty with the farmers who grow the produce. Direct marketing of farm products through farmers markets continues to be an important sales outlet for agricultural producers nationwide.”
Very nicely said in a bureaucratic sort of way. Listen, I’m all over that fresh taste stuff and organic growing thing, but for a Main Streeter, the USDA missed a big point: the money stays local. Shopping at the Farmers Market won’t do it alone; buying all your groceries here is part of the deal. Our grocery store is locally owned and if you are wheeling off to make groceries at Wally World, not only are you not helping your fellow Yalobushians, you are not really even helping out our Lafayette cousins that much.
There are 52 Farmers Markets throughout Mississippi, quite a few run by downtown Main Street associations. Why? It is not just for fun, there is a real connection between what happens on a town’s surrounding farms and the quality of life in a town. And the WVMSA believes in quality: of those 52 Mississippi Farmers Markets only 17 are Certified Markets by the Mississippi Department of Agriculture and Commerce and Water Valley is in that number. We are there for a number of reasons, but number one is our farmers are serious growers. I mean they really know what they are doing and so when you buy something from them at the market, not only are you buying local, but you are buying quality.
May 8th is coming fast; Main Street Market Festival is kicking off this season’s Farmers Market. It will be downtown that entire Saturday. It is too early to look at the forecast, but keep your fingers crossed for good weather.