Contrary to big city news media, farming is about far more than corn, beans and beef.
More than 1,000 new farmers markets have been logged into USDA's 2011 National Farmers Market Directory.
That raises the nationwide count of registered farmers markets to 7,175 as of late June. And they're offering a whole range of items including fresh fruits, vegetables and processed products.
"The remarkable growth in farmers markets is an excellent indicator of the staying power of local and regional foods," says USDA Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan. "These outlets are a critical ingredient in our nation's food system."
New and updated market listings and profiles are continually updated. You'll find them at http://farmersmarkets.usda.gov.
Top 10 farmers market states
As you might suspect, and as you can see on the accompanying map, the largest numbers of markets are on the East and West Coasts. Here are the top 10 states:
1. California (729)
2. New York (520)
3. Michigan (349)
4. Illinois (305)
5. Ohio (278)
6. Pennsylvania (266)
7. Massachusetts (255)
8. Iowa (237)
9. Wisconsin (231)
10. North Carolina (217)
The fastest growth occurred in states where farmers markets weren't well established – Alaska, Texas, and Colorado, for instance. But Pennsylvania came in eighth on the top 10 list with a 31% increase over 2010 farm markets.
Nearly 12% of all farm markets have capability of accepting SNAP (formerly food stamp) benefits onsite. This represents a 16 percent increase in the number of markets accepting SNAP benefits since 2010.
While SNAP redemption data are not available for farmers markets specifically, the USDA Food and Nutrition Service recently reported that SNAP redemptions in 2010 totaled $7.5 million at all certified farmers market and direct-to-consumer food retail establishments.
Program participants made 453,711 purchases at farmers markets and direct farm marketing outlets nationwide, with an average purchase amount of $16.69.
Since early 2011, the directory has had more than 1.8 million page views. Users can search for markets based on location, available products, and types of payment accepted, including participation in federal nutrition programs.
Features allow users to locate markets based on proximity to zip code and to see links to active farmers market websites. Customized datasets can also be built for website and application designers.
Penn State Cooperative Extension, for instance, released a Farm Fresh app (application) for iPhones and iPads. It includes more than 2,500 farm marketers and includes Delaware, Maryland, New York and New Jersey. An Android (smart phone) version will soon be launched.