Farmers’ markets have existed as a part of American society, business, and trade since 1634, when the first farmers’ market in the new world opened for business in Boston, Massachusetts. And throughout much of the 17th, 18th, and 19th centuries, outdoor market places were vital centers of commerce in both American cities and rural communities.
The Central Market, in Lancaster Pennsylvania, has been held in the same location since 1730. George Washington wrote about sending his kitchen staff to shop at Philadelphia’s outdoor market during the 1790s. And Thomas Jefferson wrote, in 1806, about buying beef, eggs and vegetables at an outdoor market in Georgetown.
During the 20th century, however, as more and better roads were built nationwide and more-modern methods of refrigeration were developed and applied, it became possible to transport produce from large commercial farms to centers hundreds; even thousands of miles away. Wholesalers took advantage of opportunities to place fruit and vegetables produced by large commercial and corporate growers into neighborhood supermarkets and chain and convenience stores, all owned by even larger corporations. A global, industrialized food system emerged, significantly changing the way we eat and our relationship to where food comes from. Small farmers found themselves less and less able to compete and local markets all but disappeared.
But in the 1960s and 70s, probably due at least in part to the Back-to-the-Land Movement (a North American counter-cultural, social phenomenon which gave preference to self-sufficiency and local food production) and growing concerns about food safety, energy consumption, and the negative impacts of the global industrial food system on our environment and local economies, interest in locally produced food steadily increased. Farmers’ markets began making a comeback.
That interest continues to grow. And Farmers’ Markets continue to realize increasing popularity in all 50 states. Today, more than 8,600 Farmers’ Markets are currently registered in the United States Department of Agriculture’s Farmers Market Directory. And Americans are spending billions of dollars annually, at Farmers’ Markets.
Adirondack Harvest is a Cornell Cooperative Extension (CCE) community-based local food and farm promotion and development program with a strong commitment to small scale, sustainable farming, and a focus on developing and expanding markets for local farm-fresh products. Years of effort by CCE Educators across northern NY have resulted in the development of more than 50 local-community-based Adirondack Harvest North Country Farmers’ Markets, now open for the season at convenient locations in every northern New York County.
You’ll find freshly picked vegetables, fruits, herbs and spices, homemade baked goods, local grass fed and finished meats, free range chicken and eggs, jams and jellies, cheeses, maple syrup, honey, snack foods, fruit juices, wines and liquors; and much more; all on sale at farmers’ markets across the North Country.
When you shop at local farmers markets, everybody wins. Participating market venders are your neighbors. They’re small farm managers and family members who greatly appreciate your support. You’ll enjoy meeting and talking with them. And getting closer to the source of the food you’re buying.
As farmers’ market customer, you’ll be able to select from the freshest local produce and the finest meats and prepared foods that money can buy. Member farmers often select plant varieties and animal breeds specifically for their superior flavor and quality. Locally grown and prepared foods are more nutritious and taste far better than fruits and vegetables that are picked before they’re ripe and then transported across the continent or halfway around the world.
In an age of global markets, it’s all too easy to lose touch with the efforts and the productivity of our regional farmers and growers. By buying wholesome, nourishing, locally grown and prepared food from North Country farmers’ market vendors, you’re supporting local small-farm-family growers, which keeps money circulating within the local community. And you’re promoting productive use and preservation of our land, our water, and our agricultural heritage, for future generations.
Photo of farmers market courtesy Adirondack Harvest.