Farmers Markets Surge in Popularity

Farmer's markets increased 17 percent nationwide in 2010

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Looking for locally grown produce? You won’t have to look far – San Diego has more than 40 certified farmers markets to choose from.

It turns out California has the most certified markets in the country with nearly 730 across the state, the U.S. Department of Agriculture recently announced.

Throughout the last year, the amount of farmers markets increased 17 percent with the addition of more than 1,000 locations nationwide.

Thanks to California’s climate, produce grows abundantly throughout the state, giving local farmers the opportunity to sell to the public.

“It also enables us to sell outdoors year-round,” said Randii MacNear, vice president of the California Federation of Certified Farmers Markets.

San Diego county is well known for growing a variety of produce and many local farmers are able to utilize the markets.

“The benefits are pretty obvious, for farmers of all size,” Casey Anderson, the membership and marketing manager for the San Diego Farm Bureau said. “It’s an additional and easy marketing opportunity to sell to their neighbors.”

In order to participate in a certified market, farmers must have a certification with the county’s department of agriculture. Growers have to pay a fee for the inspection, and once verified farmers can sell certified markets. 

Most farmer's markets in San Diego require growers to pay a participation fee for market operations. At the Ocean Beach Farmers Market, where thousands of foodies flock every Wednesday, farmers end up paying 7 percent of what they make, said organizer David Klaman. There is also a 60-cent fee for each farmer to register.

However, not all vendors at the OB Farmers Market are part of the agricultural aspect of the event. Merchants selling items such as jewelry or hot food are coexisting with the market, and market organizers have to obtain special permits for them to participate. Because of the extra permits, it’s also more expensive to participate.

The San Diego Farm Bureau sponsors three farmers markets in the area, but the majority of local markets are independently supported, Anderson said. The bureau sponsors these markets in lower-income neighborhoods, such as City Heights, to increase local produce accessibility.
“We’re doing a service to the community and making fresh local produce available in the area,” Anderson said.

MacNear believes farmers markets surge in popularity of may be because people feel safer buying items without preservatives.

“People are starting to understand what supporting local agriculture is,” she said. “It’s quite a different experience than going to the supermarket.”

Locals also take advantage of farmers markets because it serves as a way to connect with their community, MacNear said.

“They have fun at farmers markets and they feel like they’re doing something good,” she said. “We’re not doing anything new, we’re doing returning to the way things used to be.”

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