The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) was tasked with data basing Farmers Markets, beginning in 1994. The directory was updated every two years through 2008. In 2009, the process changed to a yearly rite. Here's the breakdown:
- Number of Farmers Markets in 1994 - 1,755
- Number of Farmers Markets in 1996 - 2,410
- Number of Farmers Markets in 1998 - 2,746
- Number of Farmers Markets in 2000 - 2,863
- Number of Farmers Markets in 2002 - 3,137
- Number of Farmers Markets in 2004 - 3,706
- Number of Farmers Markets in 2006 - 4,385
- Number of Farmers Markets in 2008 - 4,685
- Number of Farmers Markets in 2009 - 5,274
The obvious striking detail in this list is the rising numbers in every year reported. In fact, the number of Farmers Markets has more than tripled since 1994. This is a very good trend indeed, but further examination appears to provide further reason for optimism. Note the years and numbers listed in bold. These represent the three reporting periods with the largest growth in numbers. The biggest increase occurred from 2004 to 2006 - 679 more markets - followed by 1994 to 1996 - 655 more markets.
Here's where it gets more interesting. The year 2009 saw an increase of 589 markets, which puts it in a close third place on the list in terms of aggregate growth, but this number represents a mere one year reporting period, as opposed to all previous reporting periods, which covered two years. When projected over two years, under any reasonable scenario, the current growth rate obliterates all predecessors.
Here's where you come in. Support your local Farmers Market as a customer and/or as a vendor. Local Harvest is one great tool to seek out markets in your area.