MARTINS FERRY The United States Department of Agriculture is celebrating National Farmers' Market Week this week.
Numbers recently released by the USDA's National Farmers' Market Directory are reason enough to celebrate.
In 2008, 5000 markets nationwide were listed in the directory.
THESE FRESH potatoes are just a small sampling of the assortment of locally grown produce available at the Ohio Valley Farmers’ Market.
That number has grown to 8,144 this year a substantial increase.
Ohio ranks No. 5 nationwide for number of registered markets. The Buckeye State has 300 while California tops the list with 759. Pennsylvania is sixth at 290
"Farmers' markets are an important public face for agriculture and a critical part of our nation's food system," said Secretary Tom Vilsack. "They provide benefits not only to the farmers looking for important income opportunities, but also help fill a growing consumer demand for fresh, healthy foods. In recent years, USDA has stepped up efforts to support local and regional marketing opportunities for producers, including a modernized Farmers' Market Directory to help connect farmers, consumers, communities, and businesses around the country."
This is no secret to Ohio Valley consumers and the producers who supply their fresh and locally grown crops for consumption.
The Ohio Valley Farmers' Market, held twice weekly Saturday's from 9 a.m. until noon at 32nd and Union Sts. in Bellaire and Thursdays from 3-6 p.m. at the Bel-Morr Market at exit 208 in Morristown.
Its goal is to "provide, manage and promote a place for citizens of the Greater Ohio Valley to market products and to meet consumer needs."
But it's more than just a place to sell local produce.
There are informative and educational programs and displays aimed at encouraging the development of farm and homemade products.
Saturday in Bellaire, the OVFM held it's Big Green event in Bellaire.
Along with the usual assortment of local produce, baked goods and homemade crafts, the market hosted a walk-in butterfly tent, a demonstration of making rain barrels was offered, the J.B. Green Team talked about recycling and other tips on going green were shared.
Rain or share, the market presses on and is always well attended.
Across the river in Wheeling, the Wheeling Farmer's Market is held weekly on Saturday's from 8 a.m. Until noon in the parking lot of St. Michael Parish's Angelus Center on National Road. Wednesday's from 3-6 p.m., it can be found in the Elm Terrace Shopping Plaza in the Elm Grove section of town.
The market's are popular locally, but that popularity extends well beyond the Ohio Valley.
Local markets are a rapidly growing subsection of agriculture. According to the census of Agriculture, direct sales of food products from farmers to consumers rose nearly 50 percent between 2002-2007. Sales grew to $4.8 billion in 2007 and nearly $7 billion in 2012, up from $1 billion in 2005.
"Due to consumer demand for local food we are seeing an increase in the diversity of market offerings, and more participation from small businesses and farms," Agricultural Marketing Service Administrator Anne Alonzo said. "This year we are focusing on the sustainability and maturity of farmers markets keeping new and old markets thriving and improving. Farmers markets around the country continue to be popular social events for families and communities."
More and more consumers are valuing quality foods from local producers and are willing to make that extra trip to the market to purchase what they want.
They are finding comfort in knowing exactly where and how their food is grown. It's a trend that doesn't show any signs of slowing down.
Hughes may be reached at email@example.com