The People’s Market

May 19, 2011 | By Liza Casabona | Post a Comment

Our offices are located within blocks of the White House. And more importantly, to my mind, as the spring growing season kicks into high gear—just around the corner from the White House farmers’ market.

We’re in an interesting moment of national dialogue about how we eat as a nation. Conversations about local food, sustainable agriculture, healthy eating, nutrition and fighting childhood obesity are happening with increasing frequency outside traditional realms and on the federal stage. To a certain extent, the intersection of national policy conversations runs right through the middle of the White House farmers’ market.

There has been a high-profile push from the White House, and particularly First Lady Michelle Obama, to focus the country on eating well. Obama was part of the launch of the aforementioned farmers’ market, just steps from the White House’s front gate, and she also presided over the establishment of a vegetable garden on its grounds. And there have been frequent events over the last few years encouraging kids to be more interested in gardening, vegetables and healthy eating.

The increased attention and focus on markets is also translating into increased funding for local governments, organizations and agriculture groups that are looking to increase consumer awareness of local farmers’ market options.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Farmers’ Market Promotion Program (FMPP) is not a new initiative, but it does appear to be benefitting from the current trends. FMPP grants are used to expand direct-to-consumer marketing opportunities that will help communities promote consumption of agricultural commodities. Agricultural cooperatives, producer networks, producer associations, local and tribal governments, nonprofits, public benefit corporations, economic development corporations and regional farmers’ market authorities are all eligible for FMPP funding.

For fiscal years 2011 and 2012, the USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service expects to distribute $10 million in grants to help boost local farmers’ markets. That’s twice the amount of funding that was available in previous years. Only $5 million was allocated annually in FY 2010 for grants to promote farmers’ markets. AMS awarded approximately100 FMPP grants in FY 2010, a dramatic increase over the 20 grants that were awarded in FY 2006.

Washington D.C.—a city that benefits from its proximity to a high number of regional, small farms and producers—is already a hotbed of neighborhood farmers’ markets. With the additional federal funding available, more communities could promote well-publicized markets of their own. (Photo credit: Shea Evans Photography)

For tips from USDA on how to apply for FMPP money, subscribers to Local/State Funding Report can look in their May 23 issue.

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