Iowans Encouraged to Take Advantage of Farmers Markets

The season for farmers markets is now in full swing, with more markets statewide than ever.

Iowans are encouraged to visit one of Iowa's more than 212 farmers markets located in communities across the state this summer. With increasing consumer interest in Iowa products and farmers using markets to raise profitability, there are 28 more markets than last season and more than Iowa has ever had.

"These farmers markets provide people direct access to Iowa's nutritious, affordable and delicious products," says Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey.  "With strawberries and many other fruits and vegetables now in season, it is a great time to make sure you get out to your local farmers market."

Farmers markets make an estimated $31.5 million impact on the Iowa economy by giving local producers a place to directly market their goods and bringing business to town centers. Over 135,000 Iowans shop regularly at their local farmers market during the typical 22-week market season and 88 of Iowa's 99 counties have markets operating in them.

Online directory of farmers markets is helpful

The Iowa Department of Agriculture's Web site has a full directory of the markets found across the state to help residents find a market in their area and learn the days and times it operates. You can search by city or county or look at the complete directory. To find the directory, simply go to dalsdata.org/IowaData/farmersMarket.cfm.

Farmers markets are the largest direct to consumer sales venues in Iowa. The 2007 Census of Agriculture shows the value of ag products sold directly to individuals for human consumption rose from $11.6 million to $16.5 million, a 42% increase over a five year period.

The Iowa Department of Agriculture administers the Farmers Market Nutrition Program for seniors and residents participating in the WIC program. These programs increase domestic consumption of ag commodities by expanding or aiding the expansion of farmers markets, and additional farmers markets and farm stands. 

* The Farmers Market Nutrition Program has a number of vendors participating. There are over 750 Farmers Market Nutrition Program certified vendors and 207 authorized locations where FMNP checks can be redeemed. To find them visit www.iowaagriculture.gov/Horticulture_and_FarmersMarkets/fmNutrDirectory.asp.  Eligible participants were able to begin picking up their checks June 1. There is a one time distribution at the beginning of the season.

* The WIC Farmers Market Nutrition Program is a special supplemental food program. It is designed both to provide fresh, nutritious, unprepared fruits and vegetables from farmers markets to women, infants and children who are "nutritionally at risk" and to expand the awareness, use of and sales at farmers markets. Distribution for current participants of the WIC program is at their local WIC agencies, look for information at www.idph.state.ia.us/webmap/default.asp?map=wic_agencies.  WIC participants can receive nine of the $3.00 checks.

* The Senior Farmers Market Nutrition Program makes checks available to low-income seniors to help them in the purchasing of fruits and vegetables available at farmers markets. Seniors can sign up to receive 10 checks for $3 each through the program by contacting their local Area Agency on Aging, which can be found at www.state.ia.us/elderaffairs/aaa/index.html#map. To qualify, the senior's income must be less that $20,036 if single or $26,955 if married.

"This is an excellent time to make an effort to get out to a market in your area, especially if you haven't been to one in a while," says Northey.  "Whether you are looking for fresh produce, bake goods or something else, my guess is that you won't be disappointed."

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