Today, U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced the start of the 16th annual Farmers' Market Week, which will begin tomorrow, Sunday August 2, and run through August 8. Vilsack made the announcement as Agricultural Marketing Service Administrator Anne L. Alonzo and local officials launched the annual observance of National Farmers Market Week at the Santa Fe Farmers Market. New Mexico Department of Agriculture Secretary Jeff M. Witte, Santa Fe Mayor Javier M. Gonzales, and Santa Fe Farmers Market Director Paolo Speirn joined the celebration.
"Farmers Markets benefit communities by offering healthy, wholesome food while local farmers and ranchers benefit from new ways to present their products to customers," said USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack in Washington, DC. "People are changing how they think about farmers markets as they become community gathering points, and we have seen a 64 percent increase in customer traffic in markets open for at least two years."
In Santa Fe, Alonzo said "Farmers markets are at the heart of many towns and cities, bringing together rural and urban communities, providing Americans with fresh, healthy food, and creating jobs and opportunities for local farmers and ranchers." She continued, "USDA is proud to support farmers markets. Fifteen years ago, USDA worked with the Santa Fe Farmers Market to design this facility, and today it is one of the most successful markets in the country."
The Santa Fe Market operates three times a week and draws as many as 5,000 visitors a day during its peak season. It is also one of more than 6,400 farmers markets across the country that accepts Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits as payment. AMS and USDA's Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) work together to help farmers markets accept SNAP benefits, giving recipients access to healthy foods, expanding the customer base for farmers, and encouraging the sale of local produce.
AMS supports Farmers Markets through grants, research, and technical assistance. Last year, AMS awarded $26.6 million in competitive grants though the Farmers Market and Local Food Promotion Program, including more than $500,000 in grants awarded in New Mexico. AMS also manages the National Farmers Market Directory, one of four USDA Local Food Directories that provide customers with easy, one-stop access to locations, hours, and other information about farmers markets, community supported agriculture enterprises, food hubs, and on-farm markets.
Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack proclaimed August 2-8, 2015, National Farmers Market Week, noting that the country's more than 8,400 farmers markets play an important role in sustaining family farms and revitalizing rural communities. Secretary Vilsack has identified strengthening local food systems – including farmers markets – as one of the four pillars of USDA's commitment to rural economic