When conventional food supply chains had difficulties adapting at the start of the pandemic, farmers markets and local food systems clearly displayed the resiliency of short supply chains as interest in local foods spiked nationwide.
Farmers markets across the country did what they could to safely open for the farmers and the customers who had come to depend on them, with 72% of market organizations in the U.S. operating the same number or more market days during summer 2020 as in summer 2019, according to the Farmers Market Coalition.
The pandemic also attracted new long-time customers interested in local foods. According to the 2020 Local Food System Response to COVID Consumer Food Insights Survey, 31% of those new to farmers markets shopping during COVID were still shopping there five months later.
Now, these markets are well into another year of building resilience in our communities and bringing people together.
We celebrate National Farmers Market Week from Aug. 1 to 7, 2021. More than ever before, this week is an opportunity to showcase the value of farmers markets in our communities and thank those who have a role in these local food systems.
In Nebraska, finding your nearest farmers market has gotten easier. An interactive map can be found at gotogrow.org (a Spanish-language version is available at vamosapoyar.org). This website was developed from a U.S. Department of Agriculture Farmers Market Promotion Program grant awarded to Nebraska Extension, in collaboration with Buy Fresh Buy Local Nebraska and the Center for Rural Affairs.
The COVID-19 crisis has highlighted that we need to shorten the food supply chain to consistently provide food precisely suited to a community’s needs and preferences. When people buy at a farmers market, they have a reliable source of food. They know where their food is coming from, and they know they are getting it fresh.