Thiele: Farmers Markets Strengthen Local Economy, Offer Families Fresh Choices

May 26, 2011
Farmers markets provide our communities with a great deal of benefits. From selling the freshest, locally grown products to creating vibrant public spaces that bring our neighborhoods together, these markets encourage residents of all ages to support local farmers, while helping to strengthen our area’s economy.

In New York, the agricultural industry generates approximately $5 billion a year. Over 7 million acres of the state’s land is used by nearly 37,000 farms to produce products ranging from fresh vegetables and apples to fine wines. Many of these farms are small, family-owned businesses that are deeply invested in our communities. Instead of buying food that has been shipped all over the country, investing in local products from farmers markets provides fresh, healthy alternatives for the whole family to enjoy regularly.

Shopping at farmers markets helps protect our environment, too. By purchasing products directly from the farmer, most of your meals travel from the farm to your table. This process drastically reduces the amount of packaging needed, while cutting back on greenhouse gas emissions released during the transportation of goods. Farmers markets also allow individuals and families to enjoy the fresh air during the warmer months as they shop and interact with friends and neighbors.

Some farmers markets throughout the state have made financial assistance programs available for low-income residents who qualify. The Woman, Infants and Children Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program provides an opportunity for its members to purchase locally grown fruits and vegetables at farmers markets in an effort to encourage healthy eating habits – especially for children. The Senior Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program also provides the same option on a first-come, first-served basis to eligible lower-income seniors age 60 and over. For low-income families and individuals, the Farmers’ Market Wireless Electronic Benefit Transfer Program enables food stamp participants to use their state benefit card to purchase locally grown produce. These vital programs provide a chance for everyone to attend farmers markets and lead a healthier lifestyle.

New York State has some of the top-ranked farm products in the nation. By purchasing locally, you are investing in high-quality products that are available right at your doorstep and boosting our local economy. Help support our East End farmers and local economy by checking out a nearby farmers market.