Farmers markets aren’t going anywhere but up in Ohio.
According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s 2011 National Farm Markets Directory, such markets are increasing, as consumers look to get closer to the source of their produce. Ohio reported having 278 farmers markets, which was up 31% over the number it had in 2010.
USDA reported 1,000 farmers markets were formed in 2011, bringing the national total to 7,175 — compared to 6,132 a year earlier.
Ohio is No. 5 in the number of farmers markets in the U.S. and ninth in the U.S. for growth in such markets, according to the USDA.
California, which has around 1,000 farmers markets, had more than any other state, according to USDA, which conducts a census each year.
“Certainly, Ohio is following the national trend, and the number of farmers markets is increasing,” said Christie Welch, farmers market specialist at Ohio State University.
She said there likely were even more markets in the state than are officially logged.
“I am sure there are more markets in Ohio that either aren’t aware (of the USDA’s census) or haven’t filled out information on that census database,” Welch said.
Another statistic that slips past agriculture officials is the percentage of Ohio’s crop that reaches consumers through farmers markets, Welch said.
“We haven’t been able to secure funding to do that,” she said.
Many farmers market vendors don’t have a farming background, she said.
“They might be retired, and this is a second career for them,” she said.
The evolution of farmers markets is easy to understand, said Bill Baken, co-owner of Maize Valley Farms, a farmers market and winery in Hartville, Ohio.
“People have a great appreciation of where their food came from and who grew it,” he said.
Some Ohio farmers markets, such as Maize Valley, have evolved into areas beyond produce. John Boy’s Farm Market, outside Akron, Ohio, is an example.
“We originally started out as a produce market, but we evolved into a deli,” said Charlene Kalain, who owns the business with her husband, John Kalain.
Produce remains a big part of the year-round business, she said.
“Summertime is always more busy, with all the vegetables coming in,” she said.
Local produce is central to the success of farmers markets, operators say.
“Customers are absolutely demanding we carry as much homegrown as we can, and when it’s in season, we buy as much homegrown as we can,” said Joe Degaetano, manager of Miles Farmers Market, Solon, Ohio.
Degaetano said the farm market sector is as healthy as ever.
“There’s a lot of these municipalities putting up these weekend farmers markets that are popping up all around us, especially in the last five years,” he said.
He added his business has been going for about 40 years.
“We’ve got a base of local customers who have been shopping here for decades and now their kids shop here,” he said.