Noticed how trendy farmers markets have become lately?
According to the United States Department of Agriculture’s marketing division, the number of farmers markets operating in the United States has more than doubled since 2004.
As of 2011, there were over 7,000 farmers markets in communities across the country, including Hinesville, Richmond Hill and Savannah.
These small local markets have become popular because they offer benefits to food producers and consumers that the megabucks grocery chains can’t.
When selling through local markets, producers have a secure and regular outlet for their products that costs less than the typical grocery store. Transportation and packaging fees are lower, and producers can set their own prices and cut out the grocery store middleman, increasing their profits.
Farmers are also able to receive direct feedback from their customers on products and prices and are able to establish a rapport with the local community.
On the other side of the coin, consumers are able to access fresh, locally grown food with a footprint. Because they’re purchasing directly from the source, consumers know where the products came from and how they were prepared. There are no guessing games about genetic modification or production practices because the person selling the food also raised it.
Farmers markets stimulate local economies by keeping money within the community. They increase employment, enhance quality of life and make the community more attractive to potential residents and retailers.
To see how farmers markets are benefitting the communities around Fort Stewart and HAAF, take an afternoon and check one out:
The Hinesville Farmers Market won’t officially open until the first Thursday in May, but until then area residents can find fresh local produce and sundries at the Spring Market in Bradwell Park.
The Spring Market is open every Thursday from now until April 26 and runs from 4-7 p.m. in Bradwell Park. Vendors offer fruits, vegetables, local honey, crafts and sweets — many of the same items that will be featured at the farmers market come May.
The Hinesville Farmers Market, which is larger than the Spring Market and features a wide variety of merchandise, opens May 3 and will run until the fall. Hours of operation are from 4-8 p.m.
For more information on either market, call 877-4332 or visit www.hinesvilledowntown.com.
The Richmond Hill Farmers Market is open Tuesdays from 3-7 p.m. under the pavilion in J.F. Gregory Park. More than 30 vendors from around the region will set up shop and peddle their wares, which include everything from fresh produce and baked goods to hand-thrown pottery and jewelry.
To find out more about the market or registering a booth, visit www.facebook.com/RichmondHillFarmersMarket.
One of the area’s best-known farmers markets is the Forsyth Farmers Market in Savannah. Open every Saturday May-November from 9 a.m.-1 p.m., the open air market in the south end of Forsyth Park offers locally and regionally grown and produced food, as well as agricultural and horticultural products.
The Forsyth Farmers Market accepts SNAP benefits. For more information, visit www.forsythfarmersmarket.com.
The City of Pembroke’s Downtown Development Authority will kick off the farmers market season with its Whistlestop Market on April 7 from 10 a.m. to noon. Organizers expect 15-20 vendors to participate, offering produce, flowering plants, baked goods, woodworking and more.
Unlike past years, the Whistlestop Market will operate monthly rather than weekly in 2012. To find out this year’s dates, visit www.facebook.com/RichmondHillFarmersMarket each month or call City Hall at 653-4413.