19th Annual National Farmers Market Week Aug. 5-11

COLUMBUS - The Columbus Farmers Market began in June of 2018 and has as its goals improving access to locally grown, healthy food options for area residents and providing additional revenue opportunities for local growers and producers.

The US Department of Agriculture recently released a proclamation making Aug. 5 to 11 National Farmers Market Week with the goal to increase awareness of the role local farmers markets play in creating healthy communities and in building prosperity among farmers and small businesses.

The Columbus Farmers Market will celebrate National Farmers Market Week with a downtown event from 5 to 8 p.m. on Thursday, Aug. 9, at Discovery Park on the SE corner of the Columbus square. 15 to 20 market vendors are expected to be on hand to sell everything from fresh produce to locally raised meats to home-baked breads, pies, and pastries to local honey and bee products to goods such as candles, fresh flowers, and handmade soaps. A free watermelon feed will be held, complimentary canvas shopping bags will be distributed, a market poster contest will be held, and a honey extraction demonstration will be provided. In addition, live music, children’s activities, and food trucks will complete the festive evening.

Farmers markets provide one of the only low-barrier entry points for new farmers, ranchers, and food entrepreneurs, allowing them to start small and test new products. According to the 2017 National Young Farmers Coalition survey, farmers markets and CSAs represented the marketing channel with the highest proportion of new and beginning farmers’ sales. This support is incredibly important, as there are currently 3.5 times as many U.S. farmers over the age of 65 as there are under 35. Studies have shown that all farms, regardless of scale, are significantly more likely to survive if they have local food sales as a part of their marketing portfolio.

In a 2015 survey, 81 percent of farmers selling at farmers markets said they incorporate cover crops, reduce tillage, have on-site composting, and integrate other soil practices into their farm operations. In the same survey, four out of five farmers discuss farming practices with market customers and how it interacts with the natural environment. According to a study conducted by the American Farm Bureau, 72 percent of consumers know “nothing” or “very little” about farming or ranching. Farmers markets serve as invaluable educational sites and a rare bridge between urban and rural communities.

Farmers markets support Kansas’s small and diversified farms and circulate money back into our local economies. In 2016, 115,000 farmers sold directly to consumers, generating $3 billion in revenue, with more than $710 million in sales at farmers markets, according to a 2016 NASS Local Food Marketing Practices Survey. The survey also noted that more than 80 percent of all direct market food sales occurred within 100 miles of the farm.

Jen Cheek, Farmers Market Coalition executive director added, “When farmers and farmers markets thrive, so do we. From vibrant community gathering places, to increased access to fresh produce, to protecting our land and water with sustainable farming practices: we are all better off when they succeed. And for these hard-working farmers to succeed, they count on their neighbors to shop regularly at farmers markets. National Farmers Market Week provides an important opportunity to share these benefits and to encourage more Americans to shop local.”