American Farmland Trust’s Inaugural America’s Favorite Farmers Markets
The summer months are best enjoyed when paired with freshly picked regional produce, and one of the best ways to indulge in the season’s best local food is by shopping at a farmers market. “Farmers markets supply the great seasonal foods we love,” says Julia Freedgood, managing director of American Farmland Trust’s Growing Local initiative. “And they help consumers better understand where their food comes from—fostering a closer relationship between farmers and communities.”
Over the summer, American Farmland Trust embarked on a national campaign to celebrate local farmers markets. More than 800 farmers markets registered for our inaugural America’s Favorite Farmers Markets contest—vying not only for the title in large, medium, and small categories, but also for a shipment of special No Farms No Food tote bags to distribute to market customers. Nearly farmers market customers went online to AFT’s website to cast their votes for their favorite farmers markets.
The contest helped us bring national attention to many locally treasured farmers markets, which play a pivotal role in keeping their local farmers in business. By the conclusion of the contest in August during National Farmers Market Week, hundreds of stories in the media called attention to the contest and its participating farmers markets. Market managers and shoppers alike enjoyed the
Collingswood Farmers Market, Collingswood, New Jersey
Named a “classic” town by its regional planning commission, Collingswood, New Jersey, is a place that builds for the future by restoring the past. Its farmers market has staked out a unique location in Collingswood’s bustling downtown, setting up shop by the raised train track
Now ten years old, the market began as an all-volunteer effort of Proud Neighbors of Collingswood, launched at a time when South Jersey farmers were reluctant to give the community market concept a try. Today, many of the original farmers from the first season are still bringing weekly harvests, and the market has grown into an established part of the community. Many of the market’s 28 vendors are family farmers who operate relatively small, multi-generational farms: farmers like the Jarvis family of Springdale Farms, who operate the last working farm in Cherry Hill, New Jersey.
During the market day event to celebrate Collingswood’s win and hand out the No Farms No Food tote bags, New Jersey Assistant Secretary of Agriculture Al Murray introduced us to the farmers, including one who spoke about the economic importance of the market to his operation. The farmer recalled that his father was not sold on direct-toconsumer sales until he learned that the farm’s gross sales for one day at the farmers market had equaled the gross
Lessons from the success of Collingswood’s much heralded farmers market can be learned by nearby communities, where farmers face similar challenges operating on the urban-edge but have opportunities to gain by selling their products directly to consumers. In nearby Burlington County, New Jersey, for instance, American Farmland Trust experts are helping the county’s farmland preservation program address challenges while building a vibrant local food and farming system.
Here is what one Collingswood Farmers’ Market customer has to say:
“It is a community tradition to be at the market Saturday morning. Local restaurants have gotten involved with the market, giving demonstrations at the markets, incorporating market produce into their menus. The success of Collingswood's market has led to nearby communities also sponsoring markets, thus making local food more accessible to consumers and enabling small farms to be successful.
Williamsburg Farmers Market, Williamsburg, Virginia
Held on Merchant’s Square in Williamsburg, Virginia, the Williamsburg Farmers Market retains the air of a modern-day marketplace, bustling with trade amidst the historic buildings
Nearby, a statue of Virginia’s native son and founding father of our country, Thomas Jefferson, looks on. As a noted farmer himself, Jefferson likely would be pleased to see the success of this young farmers market, which is reviving agricultural commerce on the streets where he once may have shopped himself.
At the event celebrating the market’s selection as one of America’s Favorite Farmers Markets, Todd P. Haymore, Commissioner of Virginia's Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, joined local leaders and American Farmland Trust in congratulating the community. “The market’s success is the result of years of hard work and a commitment from our board, generous sponsors, staff and loyal customers,” said Marty Wilson, chair of the Williamsburg Farmers Market Board of Directors. “We are proud to be recognized by American Farmland Trust, whose goals are in line with our own: healthy farms, healthy food, and healthy communities.”
Here is what one Williamsburg Farmers Market customer had to say:
Davis Farmers Market, Davis, California
In California, the challenges of protecting farmland are immense, given the
“We’ve seen a nice uptick in sales this year,” says market manager Randi MacNear. “It’s almost ironic that the overall economy seems to have driven a return to the kitchen and cooking, eating at home, and buying locally. People are realizing that it makes you feel cheerful to shop at the market, makes you feel physically and mentally better, and it’s good to be outside, talking in the community.”
Over the course of the summer, markets in two communities with
California Secretary of Agriculture A.G. Karamura was one of the featured speakers at the event to recognize the market’s first place contest victory.
“The commitment that the people of Davis and Yolo County made to their farmers market is second only to their commitment to farmland preservation,” says American Farmland Trust’s California director Ed Thompson, Jr. They recognize that if there are no local farms, there can be no local food. And they have taken aggressive actions to prevent urban sprawl and keep the best land in agriculture.”
Passionate consumers of local food are important to American Farmland Trust’s work in California, where we are involved in projects that encourage local food production and consumption while protecting farmland: from San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom’s Blue Ribbon Commission to partnering with the California Board of Food and Agriculture to create a strategic plan for the future of the industry. “In all of these issues,” says Thompson, “the lovers of food and farmland are a critical voice.”
As one Davis Farmers Market customer put it:
America’s Favorite Farmers Markets™
SmallCollingswood Farmers Market
Rue and Gwen Gibson Farm Market at Fresno State
Smart Markets at Mason
Crossroads Farmers Market
Takoma Park, MD
The Farmers Market at the Williamsville Mill
City of Virginia Beach Farmers Market
Virginia Beach, VA
Bloomingdale Farmers Market
Winters Farmers Market
The Historic Eastern Market
Point Reyes Farmers Market
Point Reyes Station, CA
West Chester Growers Market
West Chester, PA
Pearl Farmers Market
San Antonio, TX
Urban Oaks Organic Farm
New Britian, CT
Amherst Farmers Market
New Baltimore Farmers Market
New Baltimore, MI
Dallas Farmers Market
Beaches Green Market
Jacksonville Beach, FL
Gloucester City Farmers Market
Gloucester City, NJ
Boyertown Farmers Market
Burlington County Farmers Market
Williamsburg Farmers Market
Farmers Market at Minnetrista
Historic Lewes Farmers Market
Franklin County Farmers Market
Mount Pleasant Farmers Market
Mount Pleasant, SC
Historic Roanoke City Market
Yorktown Market Days at the River
Westfield Farmers Market
LargeDavis Farmers Market
Ithaca Farmers market
Downtown Farmers Market
Salt Lake City, UT
St. Paul Farmers Market
St. Paul, MN
Downtown Lawrence Farmers Market
Sunset Valley Farmers Market
Sunset Valley, TX
Memphis Farmers Market
Downtown Phoenix Public Market
Bloomington Community Farmers Market
What you can do:
Make sure that your local market signs up to hear about next year's contest and other future promotional events. Bring our farmers market manager information packet with you to the market this week to help them get enrolled.
Get friends and others in your community excited about supporting your local farmers market this summer. Use our outreach tools to tell your network to shop at their favorite farmers market and to support their market this summer by voting in the contest.
Donate today to help American Farmland Trust protect local farmland and push for sound legislation supporting local foods, farmers markets and farmland protection across the country.
American Farmland Trust is the nation’s leading conservation organization dedicated to saving America’s farm and ranch land, promoting environmentally sound farming practices and supporting a sustainable future for farms. Since its founding in 1980 by a group of farmers and citizens concerned about the rapid loss of farmland to development, American Farmland Trust has helped save millions of acres of farmland from development and led the way for the adoption of conservation practices on millions more.