Baton Rouge, La - U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced the start of the 16th annual Farmers' Market Week, which began Sunday, August 2, and runs through August 8. Vilsack made the announcement as Agricultural Marketing Service Administrator Anne L. Alonzo and local officials launched the annual observance of National Farmers Market Week at the Santa Fe Farmers Market. New Mexico Department of Agriculture Secretary Jeff M. Witte, Santa Fe Mayor Javier M. Gonzales, and Santa Fe Farmers Market Director Paolo Speirn joined the celebration.
"Farmers Markets benefit communities by offering healthy, wholesome food while local farmers and ranchers benefit from new ways to present their products to customers," said USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack in Washington, DC. "People are changing how they think about farmers markets as they become community gathering points, and we have seen a 64 percent increase in customer traffic in markets open for at least two years."
AMS supports Farmers Markets through grants, research, and technical assistance. Last year, AMS awarded $26.6 million in competitive grants though the Farmers Market and Local Food Promotion Program, including more than $500,000 in grants awarded in New Mexico. AMS also manages the National Farmers Market Directory, one of four USDA Local Food Directories that provide customers with easy, one-stop access to locations, hours, and other information about farmers markets, community supported agriculture enterprises, food hubs, and on-farm markets.
The Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry again secured a grant from the USDA to participate in the 2015 Senior Farmers Market Nutrition Program (FMNP) allowing senior citizens to buy locally grown fresh fruits, vegetables, cut herbs and honey at farmers markets and roadside stands. This program helps to increase access and consumption of fresh fruits and vegetables by seniors, as well as supports local farming producers. Seniors who applied for the program this year have until November 30 to visit their local farmers market or roadside stand to utilize their vouchers. While the program is closed for this year, applications will be accepted again in March of 2016. The LDAF Commissioner Mike Strain encourages senior citizens 60 years and older who meet certain income requirements to contact their parish Council on Aging next year to participate. In New Orleans, seniors can contact Catholic Charities.
A list of Louisiana Farmers Markets is available at the Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry website.