Farmers MarketI watched the movie Food, Inc last weekend and one of its messages was that if you want the healthiest food, you should strive to buy your produce locally. There’s no better way to do that than shopping at your local farmers market. The Department of Agriculture is promoting farmers markets this week by deeming it National Farmers Market Week.

Farmers markets are a place where farmers can sell their products and develop a personal relationship with their buyers and the community. The USDA Agricultural Marketing Service supports the development of the farmers markets and counts them through the National Farmers Market Directory. This year’s count will be released this week and if it is anything like last year’s, it will demonstrate the rapid growth of farmers markets in the U.S.

Between 1994, the first year of the count, and 2009 the number of farmers markets tripled and there was a 13 percent increase between 2008 and 2009. As of last year, there were 5,274 markets. A survey USDA conducted in 2005 found that farmers markets take in over one billion dollars annually, and 25 percent of the vendors surveyed said the market is their sole source of income. The USDA provides resources on starting and funding farmers markets and most importantly where to find your local ones.

How often do you visit your local farmers market?