National Farmers' Market Week

August 5, 2014 9:08 AM

On Saturday, we were honored with a visit from Administrator Anne Alonzo of the Agricultural Marketing Service division of the United States Department of Agriculture to kick-off the 15th Annual National Farmers' Market Week.

I would like to thank our USDA partners, especially Administrator Alonzo, for a wonderful event on a beautiful Saturday morning at the nation's largest producer-only farmers' market, our very own Dane County Farmers' Market (DCFM).  Also, a special thanks to Bill Lubing, the new manager of the DCFM, for being a gracious host and setting up a wonderful program.

As we celebrate National Farmers' Market Week, let's recognize that Madison sits at the center of one of the most agriculturally diverse regions in the entire world.  Our local and regional farmers are responsible for strengthening the connection between consumers and producers, creating a strong market for our local food system.   We boast one of the most robust farm-to-table movements in the country linked by our homes and locally-owned restaurants.

However, we have a long way to go to ensure adequate access to healthy foods for all of our children and families.  SNAP access at farmers' markets and programs, such as our own MadMarket Double Dollars, help expand the purchasing power of those in need while returning a greater portion of each dollar to our local economy.  These programs must be expanded, but we should also be thinking even bigger.

Farm-to-school efforts serve huge potential in terms of not only providing fresh, nutritious produce, but educating our kids about the fun of devouring a ripe red tomato, increasing their likelihood to demand healthy food.  Through MMSD, REAP Food Group, and our own City "SEED" Grant Program, we have made strides in increasing the amount of fresh produce bars at our elementary schools. 

But, we need help from our local and regional partners in putting more cropland into production that would help support the market for large-scale procurement of a variety of produce from the school district.  We also need assistance from Congress and the USDA to not let up on efforts to improve the nutrition and awareness amongst our children.

This is good for our farmers, our economy, and our kids.  Food for thought on National Farmers' Market Week.

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