Although California has slipped from the top spot of providing the most cold-weather farmers' markets, USDA statistics reveal that the Golden State maintains its leading role in the local food movement by having the second highest number of winter markets for direct farm-to-consumer sales.
According to the Agriculture Department’s updated National Farmers Market Directory, there are 7,222 U.S. farmers' markets. About 83 percent of these venues are only open during spring and summer months, but farmers' markets are increasingly being opened during winter months.
“The expanded adoption of hoop house technology, which has enabled many smaller growers to extend their production seasons at low cost, has been a contributing factor to the growth of winter farmers’ markets,” says the American Farm Bureau Federation.
Since 2010, the USDA has recorded a 38 percent rise in the number of winter farmers' markets – ones that open at least once between November and March – bringing the total number of winter markets operating this season to 1,225. This is up from 886 a year ago.
This expansion has been especially pronounced on the Eastern seaboard.
“Farmers markets are an integral part of the urban/farm linkage and have continued to rise in popularity, mostly due to the growing consumer interest in obtaining fresh products directly from the farm,” states the USDA's website. “Farmers markets allow consumers to have access to locally grown, farm fresh produce, enables farmers the opportunity to develop a personal relationship with their customers, and cultivate consumer loyalty with the farmers who grows the produce. Direct marketing of farm products through farmers markets continues to be an important sales outlet for agricultural producers nationwide.”
The top-ten states with the most winter farmers' markets are:
1. New York, 180
2. California, 153
3. Pennsylvania, 78
4. North Carolina, 73
5. Ohio, 50
6. Maryland, 48
7. Florida, 46
8. Massachusetts, 43
9. Virginia, 40
10. Michigan, 33
To learn more and find a winter farmers’ market close to you, visit the USDA's Farmers Markets and Local Food Marketing page online.