Happy Farmer’s Market Week! Have you supported a farmer today?

Grab your reusable grocery bag, look up your nearest farmers market and plan a trip.

Over the past decade, data from the USDA shows that the number of farmers markets around the country has begun to increase. However, recently, weekly farmers market attendance has steadily declined.

What can explain this trend? First, as the number of farmers markets is increasing, there are more options and people can attend a variety of different markets, some of which may be pulling attendance from regional markets to those closer to where people actually live. The most successful markets also feature a wide variety of products, are open year round or for extended seasons, and offer organic produce options. Seasonality impacts this as well, so having a variety of vendors who use seasonal extension practices can really help in colder climates.

Second, while there are many new farmers markets opening up, not all are done with adequate levels of market research to test accessibility to those new markets.In general, market location is a critical factor for a market’s success, with densely populated urban areas most successful.

Last, a majority of chain grocery stores have begun to market local foods in their produce aisles, and even carry local brands throughout the stores.

So what does this mean? It means you should still support your local farmer’s market! The money spent at those markets goes directly into the hands of the farmers, giving them the best value, reducing the need for middle men “taking a cut” at distribution centers, and you get food, fresh from a farm!

What are you waiting for? Get some fresh produce and start cooking!