It’s a beloved summer pastime – Strolling the neighborhood streets with family and friends in search of the freshest local fruits, veggies, baked goods, meats, and cheeses - It’s Farmers Market season! Considered by many the highlight of the week, local Farmers Markets have become a place not only to shop for local products but to socialize with farmers, business owners and other members of your community. While these kinds of urban open markets have picked up in popularity in recent years, growing over 300 percent from 1994 to today’s over 8,000 registered markets, this enterprise actually has deep roots in American history.
According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), the first Farmers Market started on a 120 square-foot plot in the center of Lancaster, PA in 1730. This area, later to be called the Lancaster Central Market, is said to have seen upwards of 400 vendors at one time and has remained a beloved staple in the city of Lancaster1.
While Farmer Markets have experienced a long history, it is even reported that in 1806 President Thomas Jefferson purchased beef, eggs, and vegetables from a market in Georgetown, their more recent “renaissance” of the past 40 years came about with concern over the preservation of local farmland and the livelihood of small farmers2.
Fun fact: according to the USDA’s Twitter account (@USDA – check them out for great info. and tips), 90 percent of farms are considered small.
Today there are more than 150,000 farmers, ranchers and other agriculture entrepreneurs who sell their products directly to consumers3, contributing approximately nine billion dollars to the U.S. economy.
Now you may be saying to yourself, “I love Farmers Markets, but what do they have to do with honey?” Well, while you can, and most likely will, find honey at your local market, that’s not why we’re talking about it.
Did you know that honey bees are responsible for about 80 percent of all insect pollination? In case you’re wondering how much that equates to, consider that one in every three bites of food you eat is insect-pollinated, so about one-third of your plate. It’s thanks to honey bees (and other native pollinators) that we get to enjoy many of our favorite fruits, vegetables, and nuts including almonds, cucumbers, cherries, avocados, and summertime favorite watermelons. In all honey bee pollination is valued at more than $17 billion a year!
August 6-12 is National Farmers Market Week, so, get out and support your local farmers, ranchers, and community, and remember, the next time you visit your local Farmers Market, be sure not only to thank a farmer but also a honey bee.
To find a Farmers Market in your area, check out the USDA’s National Farmers Market Directory.
1 Neal, Arthur. 2013. USDA Blog. “Meet Me at the Market” – The Evolution of a Farmers Market: https://www.usda.gov/media/blog/2013/08/7/meet-me-market-evolution-farmers-market
2 Jablow, V., B. Horne. 1999. Smithsonian Magazine. Farmers’ Markets: http://www.smithsonianmag.com/arts-culture/farmers-markets-68235529/
3 Farmers Market Coalition. About Farmers Markets: https://farmersmarketcoalition.org/education/qanda/