December 5, 1998 | By: Haven Miller

According to the United States Department of Agriculture, the number of farmers markets in the United States is growing. Kentucky's farmers markets are also increasing in popularity.

"More and more of our state's fruit and vegetable producers are interested in exploring direct selling opportunities," said Tim Woods, Extension marketing specialist in the UK College of Agriculture. "I'm getting called all the time to help people set them up, and some markets have a waiting list of growers wanting to participate."

Recent figures from the USDA show that the number of farmers markets has increased 37 percent nationally over the last four years. A national directory of farmers markets lists more than 2,700 markets.

"Our Kentucky directory indicates about 62 farmers markets right now," said Jim Mansfield, director of horticulture and aquaculture marketing for the Kentucky Department of Agriculture. Mansfield said easy entry for small-scale fruit or vegetable operations is one reason farmers markets are popular with growers.

"With these kinds of markets farmers don't have meet uniform grading or special container requirements," said Mansfield. "It's also a good way for them to start small with lower risk, then gradually get bigger as time goes by."

Local governments also like farmers markets.

"Municipalities often look at farmers markets as a way to revitalize their downtown areas and stimulate business on weekends," said Tim Woods. "A lot of these markets are busy areas of commerce and, of course, success breeds success." Woods said farmers markets might be small operations where several farmers join together and sell in a public place, or they might be more developed systems with bylaws, membership fees, and cooperative promotion.

State governments, such as Kentucky's, often provide financial incentives to help farmers markets succeed.

"We ran a grant program recently that offered $500 for advertising and promotion, or for improvements to facilities," said Mansfield. "A large number of our markets took advantage of the opportunity."

Consumers apparently like farmers markets as well. According to the USDA, food shoppers enjoy having access to locally-grown, farm-fresh products at reasonable prices.

Contact: 

Writer: Haven Miller
(606) 257-3784

Sources: Tim Woods
(606) 257-7270

Jim Mansfield
(502) 564-4696