WASHINGTON — The mantra, “buy local” is catching on as farmers markets become more abundant nationwide and Virginia is among the states experiencing the most growth.
Farmers markets are being celebrated as part of National Farmers Market Week, which goes from Aug. 3-9.
The number of farmers markets nationwide has increased a whopping 76 percent since 2008, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. There are more than 8,200 farmers markets around the country, according to the department.
Virginia is seeing big growth in the number of farmers markets, too. The commonwealth ranked ninth in the U.S. for its number of farmers markets, according to rankings released by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
There are about 250 farmers markets in Virginia, but that number continues to grow, says Elaine Lidholm, director of communications for the Virginia Agriculture and Consumer Services Department.
It’s ahead of Missouri at No. 10 and trailing Wisconsin. The top three states are California, New York and Michigan. They are followed by Ohio, Illinois, Massachusetts and Pennsylvania.
“We are always happy to be in the top 10 and this year we’re No. 9,” says Lidholm.
Last year, Virginia came in at No. 9, too.
Considering the size of Virginia compared to some of the other big agricultural states, she says it makes the commonwealth’s ranking an even bigger deal.
Virginians are latching on to the mantra, “buy fresh, buy local,” says Lidholm. She says one reason behind the growth is that Virginians love their farmers markets.
“It says how much Virginians support farmers markets. Because we wouldn’t have them if they weren’t viable,” she says.
Other reasons for the success behind the large number of farmers markets in the commonwealth, she says is the diversity of products in Virginia from peaches to seafood and of course, the all-important direct farmer-to-consumer relationship.
Lidholm says while the ranking is great news for Virginia, the biggest winners are the customers who have more and more access to farm fresh products.
“The consumers are buying it literally hours after it’s been picked.”