By Pam Stegall, Calvert Farms Winter arrives and produce production stops, right? Many people think…
March 17, 2016
The Maryland Department of Agriculture (MDA) recently held their Farmer’s Market Conference in Annapolis. The meeting reviewed everything from new market regulations to market etiquette.
Learning about the inner workings of farm market operations was insightful, but for many of us, the fun part came when we got to sample locally-sourced breakfast treats and enjoy a sit-down lunch of Maryland-grown foods.
The first session detailed the weekly Maryland farmers market reports. The reports compile data from the Anne Arundel County, Baltimore City, Bowie, Crofton, and Downtown Denton markets. Each weekly report shows produce variety and price points for the respective produce. A separate reports outlines data for Maryland meat, eggs, and dairy. An updated version of these reports can be found on the USDA website. To keep things interesting, prizes were awarded out to the person that could identify a fiddlehead fern (they’re the tasty curly frond of a young fern).
Next we heard from Maryland’s Best, an initiative that aims to connect consumers to Maryland farm products. According to an MDA survey, 80 percent of farm market consumers said that their local food purchases have increased over the past three years. According to those surveyed, the top reasons to buy local were increased freshness, and interest in supporting the local economy.
Those are surely marketing angles that farmers and farm markets can and should use to encourage even more Marylanders to make it a habit to shop their local farm market.
Along with changing consumer demand, food access in under-served communities was a hot topic at the meeting. The Farmers Market Nutrition Program (FMNP) allows eligible members to use checks (indirectly provided by MDA) to buy produce from FMNP authorized farmers market.
In the past, FMNP found redemption rates for seniors were high, while those for Women, Infants and Children (WIC) were low. In an attempt to boost redemption rates, FMNP developed the Mobile Market Finder. The mobile site allows participants in a variety of tate and federal programs to easily find nearby farmers markets. The site also reminds participants how to use their checks, and which items are eligible for purchase.
Now that you know a little bit more about farmers markets, check out the Fair Farms’ event page for farmers market listings near you!