Farmers’ markets continue to grow in Nebraska as consumers drive demand.
State Agriculture Director Greg Ibach said during a conference call with reporters that more and more consumers want to know where their food comes from.
“And farmers’ markets offer a great opportunity for you to meet the person that operates the garden that grew the fruits and vegetables they you’re purchasing and it gives the consumer that direct tie to that producer,” according to Ibach. “And, so, I think that’s part of the reason why the popularity is growing.”
Statistics tell the story. According to state records, the number of farmers’ markets in Nebraska has grown from 39 to more than 75 in the past 12 years. You can find a farmers’ market in 62 cities. The number of farmers selling their produce at a farmers’ market has grown from only 78 12 years ago to more than 600 this year.
Ibach said that for most Nebraska farmers who participate, the farmers’ market is a sideline, an enhancement of their farm operations.
“But there is a growing number of producers who are trying to make it more mainstream in their operation and we even have some producers who are utilizing greenhouses and making it a year-round economic endeavor for them, as well,” Ibach said.
The Nebraska Department of Agriculture and the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services have collaborated to operate the Senior Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program the past 12 years. Under the program, poor elderly Nebraskans can use coupons to purchase locally grown produce at a farmers’ market. Ibach said $223,000 worth of coupons were redeemed last year alone by the nearly 5,400 senior citizens. The 2012 program kicks off tomorrow.
Farmers’ markets normally operate between May and October in Nebraska. The Nebraska Department of Agriculture’s Guide to Nebraska Fresh Produce lists farmers’ markets, roadside stands and U-pick operations across the state as well as other useful information. For a copy of the guide, go to http://www.ourbesttoyou.nebraska.gov/or call 800-422-6692.
AUDIO: Gov. Dave Heineman hosts news conference on farmers’ markets. [5:30]