Agriculture Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan Wednesday announced that the number of winter markets listed in USDA's National Farmers Market Directory has increased 52%, from 1,225 in 2011 to 1,864 in 2012.
Winter markets now account for roughly 24% of the 7,865 farmers markets listed in the USDA national directory. Markets operating at least once between November and March are considered winter farmers markets.
"Each winter farmers market offers additional opportunities for farmers to generate income year round," Merrigan said. "These investments are a win-win. Farmers have more stability, and consumers have a reliable supply of local food, regardless of the season."
The 2012 top 10 states for winter farmers markets are: California, 284; New York, 196; Florida, 105; Maryland, 70; Texas, 63; North Carolina, 62; Massachusetts, 59; Pennsylvania, 58; Georgia, 55; Virginia, 53.
Cost-effective options, such as hoop houses and eco-friendly greenhouse energy use, have helped many small and mid-sized farmers expand their growing season while keeping overhead costs down. Many local markets also launch targeted marketing campaigns to raise community awareness of the extended farmers market season and product offerings. According to USDA's most recent National Farmers Market Manager Survey, markets operating seven months or more each year often see a sizable difference in revenue.
Consumers can find a variety of products such as fresh or preserved fruit, root vegetables, hearty greens, tree nuts, meat, poultry, eggs, honey, herbs, handmade soaps, baked goods, pumpkins, ornamental crops like Christmas trees, gourds and other holiday foods or decorative items.
"Winter markets are a great way to support local farms and businesses year-round," Merrigan said. "As you celebrate the holiday season and bring in the New Year, more farmers markets are there to provide fresh ingredients for your favorite holiday dishes and offer unique gift options for family and friends."
An interactive view of USDA programs that support local and regional foods is available online at the Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food Compass.
AMS also sponsors its own indoor farmers market during the winter months at USDA's headquarters in Washington, D.C.