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Farmers markets offer healthful options
USDA to honor farmers markets locally, nationwide
new farmers-market

Every Thursday evening during the summer, downtown squares in Great Bend and St. John come to life as vendors peddle garden fresh produce.
Every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday mornings, the same thing happens in the Great Bend Public Library parking lot.
These farmers markets are among thousands that have sprouted across the country. United States Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack wants these efforts to bring home-grown fruits and vegetables to local consumers to be recognized. That is why he has declared Aug. 3-9 National Farmers Market Week.
Throughout the week, United States Department of Agriculture will celebrate these markets, the farmers who make them possible and the communities that host them.
“Farmers markets are good for our farmers and good for our communities,” said Janel Rose, health educator for the Barton County Health Department. She is one of the coordinators for the Thursday evening Summer Street Stroll Farmers Market and Senior Farmers Market Nutrition Program, both in Great Bend.
The development of the Summer Street Stroll in Great Bend’s Jack Kilby Square and the St. John Farm & Art Market downtown there are in direct response to a need for greater access to locally grown fresh fruits and vegetables, Rose said.  The Senior Farmers Market Nutrition Program, in particular, helps provide seniors a healthier, more nutritious diet. 
The Thursday evening markets are open starting at 5 p.m. at their respective downtown city squares.
The declaration was made via an official proclamation signed by Secretary Vilsack. This year marks the 15th-annual National Farmers Market Week recognizing the important role that farmers markets play in the agricultural and food economy. The U.S. Department of Agriculture began declaring National Farmers Market Week in 2000.
“National Farmers Market Week is a great opportunity for farmers markets across the country to host special events to showcase all the tremendous services they provide,” said Vilsack. “Farmers markets play a key role in developing local and regional food systems that support family farms, and help grow rural economies. They bring communities together, connecting cities with the farms that support them and provide Americans across the country with fresh, healthy food.”
In honor of National Farmers Market Week, USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service Administrator Anne Alonzo will be at the Dane County Farmers Market located on the grounds of the State Capitol building in Madison, Wis., on Saturday. The Madison farmers market is the largest producer-only farmers market in the U.S.
On Friday, Aug. 8, the USDA Farmers Market, located at USDA headquarters in Washington, D.C., will host a Healthy Back-To-School Challenge to show kids and their families how to cook simple, healthy, and delicious snacks with seasonal ingredients. Other USDA officials will be at other farmers market locations across the country throughout the week.
“Thousands of farmers markets across the country offer consumers fresh, affordable, convenient, and healthful products sold directly from the farm,” Vilsack said. They also offer additional market opportunities for local producers, especially smaller or newer operations.
Farmers markets increasingly offer electronic benefits transfer technology that can be used by recipients of USDA’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program - as well as low-income women, infants, and children and seniors participating in the WIC and Senior Farmers’ Market Nutrition Programs - to get fresh, seasonal ingredients.
Farmers market development is a cornerstone of the USDA’s Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food Initiative, which coordinates the Department’s policy, resources, and outreach efforts related to local and regional food systems, Vilsack said. Strengthening local food systems as one of the four pillars of USDA’s commitment to rural economic development.