The 16th annual National Farmers' Market Week kicked off Sunday and will run through Aug. 8, USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack and Agricultural Marketing Service Administrator Anne Alonzo announced over the weekend during the Santa Fe Farmers Market in New Mexico.
New Mexico Department of Agriculture Secretary Jeff Witte, Santa Fe Mayor Javier Gonzales, and Santa Fe Farmers Market Director Paolo Speirn joined the celebration.
"People are changing how they think about farmers markets as they become community gathering points, and we have seen a 64% increase in customer traffic in markets open for at least two years," said USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack from Washington, D.C.
"Farmers markets are at the heart of many towns and cities, bringing together rural and urban communities, providing Americans with fresh, healthy food, and creating jobs and opportunities for local farmers and ranchers," Alonzo said from Santa Fe.
The Santa Fe Market operates three times a week and draws as many as 5,000 visitors a day during its peak season. It is also one of more than 6,400 farmers markets across the country that accepts Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits as payment.
AMS and USDA's Food and Nutrition Service work together to help farmers markets accept SNAP benefits.
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.