Supporting Farmers Markets — Rain, Shine, or Pandemic
It’s still so fresh in my memory the first time I had to open a farmers market on a rainy, cold morning in April, many years ago as a rookie market manager. There I was thinking to myself, who is gonna show up on such a gusty and wet morning? To my surprise, all the farmers showed up with smiles on their faces, setting up without complaint to sell their harvests. As a farmer greeted me with a loud and friendly “rain or shine,” I realized that I needed to match farmers’ commitment and sacrifice if I wanted to do the job well.
Last year, that rain or shine attitude took on a new meaning as thousands of farmers markets across the country stayed open during the worst public health crisis of our lifetime. “Rain or shine” became “pandemic or not.” For the last 16 months, farmers markets everywhere have played a vital role in providing their communities with wholesome foods sold in safe, open-air settings. In 2020, FRESHFARM operated 19 farmers markets and three farm stands that served 428,000 shoppers and grossed $15.6 million in sales. These numbers speak volumes about the dedication of the FRESHFARM network of farmers and producers. They also demonstrate the importance of farmers markets as safe food access points in our community and the dedication of shoppers like you in supporting a robust regional food system.
I share these reflections as we enter the 22nd annual National Farmers Market Week (NFMW) from August 1st to 7th, 2021. NFMW is a unique opportunity to showcase and celebrate the positive impact farmers markets have on our communities and the nation’s food system, both during the peak of the pandemic and as we enter a new phase of recovery. So, as we start gathering again, I invite you to join us in this celebration. This week, visit your local farmers market, greet those farmers that helped us to maintain the fibers that connect us as a community, discover the new flavors of those local food businesses that survived the crisis, and thank that market manager that kept us open.
I still remember that distant April morning. Like me, millions of people have been touched by the powerful example of our farmers: they have been there for us, rain or shine or pandemic. Now is the time for us to be there for them. Happy National Farmers Markets Week!