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Farmers markets are good for everyone


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What is a farmers market?

Farmers markets vary from hundreds of food producers across a regional food system to just a few farmers collecting in a town square every month. Each market is a unique representation of its community, with a wide variety of products available for sale. Most farmers markets showcase local food, local producers and local pride.

Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack has proclaimed Aug. 1-9 as National Farmers Market Week. This year marks the 11th annual National Farmers Market Week. Since the USDA began declaring the celebration in 2000, the number of farmers markets has grown more than 60 percent, from 2,863 markets in 2000 to 4,685 in 2008.

This year's theme, Markets Are Up!, is a way of showing that "even in these most complicated economic times, farmers markets remain a solid investment in our health, our communities and our economy, says Stacy Miller, executive director of the Farmers Market Coalition, a nonprofit supporting farmers markets across the country.

"Farmers markets are already reporting record sales this year, which we expect will continue to grow." Ac c o r d i n g t o t h e USDA ,

S. A.T.U.R.D.A.Y. Market in Havre is one of approximately 4,800 in the country and 43 in Montana. Havre's market began under the S.A.T.U.R.D.A.Y. Market banner in 2000, with organization by the Havre Area Chamber of Commerce, but there had been a very active market in Havre for many years.

One of the long-time vendors of the market and one-time organizer Betty Holden noted she has been doing markets in Havre since 1984.

This year is looking to be another banner year for S.A.T.U.R.D.A.Y. Market, which opened July 10, with 21 vendors and has grown each weekend.

When the gardens finally mature, we will again top more than 38 vendors who are selling a wide variety of products, from baked goods, to local crafts and art along with a variety of other products — many homemade.

"Farmers markets are good for everyone" says Miller. "They are good for your health, good for your community, and good for the economy. Not to mention they offer the freshest foods from America's most entrepreneurial farmers and preserve our country's agricultural traditions."

  • The USDA estimates there are an average of 31 vendors per farmers market, providing opportunities for more than 130,000 direct-marketing farmers across the country.
  • The USDA's Agriculture Census reported more than $1.2 billion in direct farm-to-consumer sales in 2007, the majority of these at farmers markets.
  • Farmers markets support healthy lifestyles in many ways:

  • Offer unique varieties of fresh, nutritious food at the peak of flavor, directly from the grower,
  • Encourage walking, bicycling and use of public transit,
  • Develop vibrant community networks and gathering places, and
  • Provide opportunities for fresh air, social interaction and learning about healthy cooking and regional products.
  • Thank you to all the vendors who support the market each week. Your dedication to the market is directly related to its success. And, to the community, thank you for your support of the market each weekend. Farmers markets are a vital link between local farms and local artisans and their supporting communities, providing fresh and healthy food and wonderful area art and an experience that cannot be matched anywhere else.

    (Debbie Vandeberg is the executive director of the Havre Area Chamber of Commerce.)


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