Agriculture Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan announced that the number of winter markets listed in USDA's National Farmers Market Directory has increased 52 percent, from 1,225 in 2011 to 1,864 in 2012. Winter markets now account for roughly 24 percent of the 7,865 farmers markets listed in the USDA national directory. Markets operating at least once between November and March are considered winter farmers markets.
"Each winter farmers market offers additional opportunities for farmers to generate income year round," said Merrigan. "These investments are a win-win. Farmers have more stability, and consumers have a reliable supply of local food, regardless of the season."
The 2012 top 10 states for winter farmers markets are:
1. California with 284
2. New York with 196
3. Florida with 105
4. Maryland with 70
5. Texas with 63*
6. North Carolina with 62
7. Massachusetts with 59
8. Pennsylvania with 58
9. Georgia with 55*
10. Virginia with 53
* New to the top 10 list.
Cost effective options, such as hoop houses and eco-friendly greenhouse energy use, have helped many small and mid-sized farmers expand their growing season while keeping overhead costs down. Many local markets also launch targeted marketing campaigns to raise community awareness of the extended farmers market season and product offerings. According to USDA's most recent National Farmers Market Manager Survey, markets operating seven months or more each year often see a sizable difference in revenue.
Consumers can find a variety of products such as fresh or preserved fruit, root vegetables, hearty greens, tree nuts, meat, poultry, eggs, honey, herbs, handmade soaps, baked goods, pumpkins, ornamental crops like Christmas trees, gourds and other holiday foods or decorative items.
"Winter markets are a great way to support local farms and businesses year-round," said Merrigan. "As you celebrate the holiday season and bring in the New Year, more farmers markets are there to provide fresh ingredients for your favorite holiday dishes and offer unique gift options for family and friends."
An interactive view of USDA programs that support local and regional foods including Specialty Crop Block Grant awards, Farmers Market Promotion Program and more, is available at the Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food Compass. The KYF Compass is a digital guide to USDA resources related to local and regional food systems. The Compass consists of an interactive U.S. map USDA-supported local and regional food projects and an accompanying narrative documenting the results of this work through case studies, photos and video content. AMS also sponsors its own indoor farmers market during the winter months at USDA's headquarters in Washington, D.C.