Officially, National Farmers Market Week is Aug. 6-12 this year. In Reston, the big event will be at the Reston Farmers Market on Saturday morning, Aug. 12. We’ll be celebrating the farmers who bring the freshest, healthiest ingredients for your table, and the presence of Cornerstones managing the SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) in Northern Virginia’s top farmers market. It will be an event for the whole family — games and educational activities for the kids, a raffle for market baskets, and more.
Farmers markets go way back in America. But, as the country became more and more urban, especially in the 20th century, town and city folks lost touch with farmers. Millions of Americans have grown up thinking of food as something out of supermarkets and now big box stores. Large factory farms replaced family farms and many remaining, older farmers became contract producers for huge conglomerates. There are now about 3.5 times as many farmers over 65 as there are under 35 in the United States. In recent years farmers markets have returned big time across America — for good reasons. They fuel languishing rural economies while supporting better health in communities they serve — like Reston. Markets encourage farmland conservation and preservation, while educating urban consumers about where food really comes from and the benefits of fresh fruits and vegetables. Furthermore, in Fairfax County, for example, the public cost of a local market is very low. Less than a handful of part-time Fairfax County Park Authority staff oversee 10 markets, all managed by community volunteers. Complete disclosure: my wife Fran and I are two of the latter.
Farmers markets provide a rare low-barrier to entry for new farmers, ranchers and food entrepreneurs, allowing them to start small. You may know new, younger farmer-vendors in the Reston Farmers Market and what this market means for them. Also, direct marketing farmers experience lower rates of business failure than those who exclusively sell wholesale. And, growers selling locally create, on average, 13 full-time farm jobs per $1 million in revenue, while those who don’t sell locally create only three jobs. The land they use benefits as well: 81 percent of them use cover crops, reduced tillage, on-site composting, and other soil health practices in their operations.
And, did I mention that what these hardworking folks sell at the Reston Farmers Market is really good for us. Because of the fresh fruits and veggies they bring, the American Food Index includes the number of farmers markets per capita as a factor contributing to community health. According to the Union of Concerned Scientists, if Americans really wanted to lower healthcare costs, they should boost their average daily consumption of fruits and vegetables by just one additional portion per day. Doing so, would save America more than $2.7 trillion in health care costs. For more information about National Farmers Market Week and what farmers markets mean for all of us, go to: farmersmarketcoalition.org/programs/national-farmers-market-week/.
We hope to see you and your family at the Reston Farmers Market in the parking lot at Lake Anne to celebrate Farmers Market Week and to get your supply of the freshest, healthiest fruits and vegetables from farmers you know!