Farmers markets are the new town squares. Across the country, farmers markets are at the heart of many towns and cities. They are community gathering places where America’s food producers are building successful businesses and bringing fresh, local food to market.

As key components of strong local and regional food systems, farmers markets are also economic engines. They attract foot traffic and customers to brick and mortar stores; increase access to fresh, healthy foods and create jobs and marketing opportunities for local farmers and ranchers.

Get local

As Americans want to know more about where their food comes from, we’re seeing the demand for local food expand beyond farmers markets into major grocery stores, restaurants and schools. Local and regional food producers are evolving to meet that demand.

In 2014, there was an estimated $11.7 billion in sales of local and regional food, the majority of which came from wholesale and institutional sales versus farmers markets. That translates into more opportunities for farmers and ranchers, more choices for consumers and more jobs in rural and urban communities.

That’s why Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack has identified strengthening local and regional food systems as one of the four pillars of USDA's commitment to rural economic development. USDA's Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food (KYF2) initiative coordinates efforts across USDA to support local and regional food systems. In the past two years alone, USDA has made over 500 investments in food hubs, local processing facilities and distribution networks.

New ideas

USDA has a long history of supporting local and regional food systems through grants, research, technical assistance and market information. As part of this work, USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) is always looking for innovative ways to help farmers markets succeed. AMS also manages USDA’s Local Food Directories, which provide an easy, one-stop shop for information on local farmers markets, community-supported agriculture (CSA) enterprises, food hubs and on-farm markets are valuable resources for customers looking for local food and producers looking for market opportunities.

Local food businesses can list their operational details in the directories, and they are searchable by zip code, allowing consumers to create a customized list of local food options. Local food is evolving into a mature market before our very eyes. This is only the beginning.