Virginia Celebrates Farmers Markets August 1 – 7, 2010

Their popularity is increasing, their numbers have more than doubled since 2004 and they  help support farm jobs across Virginia. Farmers’ markets, now more than 190 strong in Virginia, are an essential element in communities across the Commonwealth. To celebrate their growing importance to consumers, farmers and the economy of the state, Governor Bob McDonnell has recognized the week of August 1 – 7, 2010 as Farmers’ Market Week in Virginia. And as an extra added enticement, the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (VDACS) is sponsoring a photo contest with prizes in four categories. Details are available at here.

Matthew J. Lohr, VDACS Commissioner, commented that farmers’ markets are a great tradition in Virginia that date from the very early days of the Commonwealth. “Several markets – Richmond and Alexandria among them – claim to be the oldest farmers’ markets in the nation operating from the same location. But it doesn’t matter if a market is 250 years old or just opened this summer, it’s still a great place to find Virginia Grown tomatoes, homemade strawberry jam, fresh meats and cheeses or a chat with neighbors and friends,” Lohr said.   He added that people often can find and talk to the person who grew, produced or processed the fresh, delicious food they have come to buy.

At Virginia’s farmers’ markets, buyers get a bonus of taste and nutrition with every produce purchase.   The fresh fruits and vegetables sold at farmers markets are grown nearby, minimizing the time it takes to move them from field to fork and maximizing their time-sensitive flavors and nutrients.

Consumers are not the only ones who benefit from farmers markets. Local farmers just starting out can take advantage of the markets’ ready made sales outlets and experienced farmers can use the markets to gain additional marketing and sales opportunities.   Farmers markets offer all sellers the chance to increase their financial returns by selling directly to buyers.

Farmers markets help sustain Virginia’s working farms which in turn help keep the state’s economy strong, provide green and open space, and help preserve the high quality of life enjoyed by Virginians. The continuing growth of Virginia farmers’ markets helps maintain agriculture as the Commonwealth’s number one industry with an economic impact of $55 billion annually and 357,000 jobs to its credit.

As part of the Farmers Market Week celebration, VDACS is sponsoring a Photo Contest in three age groups, as well as for the most photographed market. The deadline is Wednesday, August 18, 2010 to send in an original photo taken at a local farmers’ market.   Four winners, one child 12 or under, one teenager and one adult, will receive a prize package of Virginia’s Finest and Virginia Grown products worth at least $100. The farmers’ market with the most entries also will receive a special prize package. Click here fo complete details, contest rules and a release form.

Click here for a copy of Governor McDonnell’s Farmers’ Market Week proclamation. Consumers will find a list of farmers’ markets throughout Virginia at www.virginiagrown.com, as well as recipes, a produce availability chart, a list of food festivals and much more. So log on, download the information, grab your camera and join the celebration of Farmers Market Week August 1 – 7, 2010 at a market near you.