By Christie Welch
Direct Food and Agricultural Marketing Team Leader
Summer is here and one of the best benefits of an Ohio summer is the availability of fresh local produce. Who can resist fresh berries, tomatoes, sweet corn, and more? One way to feed your craving for these summer treats is to visit your local farmers market. There is no better time to visit than during National Farmers Market Week, August 7-13, 2022.
Ohio is home to an estimated 300 farmers markets from which to choose your fresh, local foods. While the fresh food alone is great, farmers markets are much more than a place to purchase local foods.
We are all aware of the disruptions to supply chains because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Local food producers have been able to adapt quickly to help Ohioans continue to access the fresh, healthy, local foods they have come to expect. However, many more benefits are brought to communities by having thriving farmers markets.
Farmers markets offer a safe place where community members can come together to build relationships, increase access to fresh and healthy produce for those who are food insecure, provide information and education on healthy eating, and create a space where local businesses and organizations can support each other. More than 100 farmers markets in Ohio accept food assistance benefits, and many offer matching incentives to individuals and families. You can find Ohio farmers markets that accept food assistance benefits in ODJFS’s 2022 OHIO FARMERS’ MARKET EBT DIRECTORY. According to the Farmers Market Coalition, since 2017, farmers market and direct marketing farmer redemptions of SNAP have increased by 162 percent. FMC also reports that in 2021, over $100 million in federal nutrition benefits were redeemed at farmers markets and with direct marketing farmers ($59m from SNAP, $29.8m from WIC FMNP, $23.7m from Senior FMNP, and $9m from the Gus Schumacher Nutrition Incentive Program).
Farmers markets also serve as business incubators. Individuals interested in starting and/or growing a food-based business can enter the industry by participating in farmers markets. This offers access to consumers that are more likely to be interested in their products, allows for direct feedback from consumers on products, and can be entered with low capital requirements. As these new businesses receive feedback, create relationships, and grow their businesses, they become a key component of the community. There are numerous businesses that have started at farmers markets and gone on to occupy brick and mortar facilities throughout Ohio. These businesses also create jobs.
In an effort to assist Ohio farmers market managers and vendors increase their sustainability and ability to serve Ohio consumers, The OSU South Centers Direct Food and Agricultural Marketing Team has partnered with the Farmers Market Coalition, Ohio Farmers Market Network, and USDA Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education to provide education and information on data collection and use by farmers markets.
The OSU South Centers Direct Food and Agricultural Marketing Team is here to assist you in exploring being a farmers market vendor, explore starting or growing a farmers market in your community, and learning more about what farmers market managers and vendors need to help Ohio farmers market thrive. If you would like assistance or information, email Christie Welch at firstname.lastname@example.org.