WVFM celebrates National Farmers Market Week

A crowd enjoys the Walnut Valley Farmers Market in July.

The Walnut Valley Farmers Market joins markets across the country in celebrating National Farmers Market Week on Aug. 4-10.

Besides the usual fresh local food and artisan products found weekly at the market, special guests will be on hand from 7:30 to 11 a.m. Saturday.

“Miss Jo” from Winfield Public Library will have a special story time for kids at 8:30 a.m. Becky Reid, with K-State Research and Extension, and Tara Duncan, with Graves Drug, will give cooking demonstrations throughout the morning. This week’s live music will be performed by Mandolin Monroe, aka Emily Anderson. The market’s weekly giveaway drawing will be larger than usual, with additional market T-shirt giveaways.

As demand for local food continues to grow, so, too, have the opportunities for America’s farmers to market fresh food directly to the consumer. According to statistics recently released by the United States Department of Agriculture, farmers markets and farm stands account for roughly $2 billion of the $3 billion that Americans spend annually on farm-direct products. This revenue, in turn, supports the livelihoods of more than 165,000 mostly small and mid-sized farms and ranches.

The Walnut Valley Farmers Market, started in 1997, currently hosts 35 vendors and farmers selling a wide variety of products, including local produce such as tomatoes, cucumbers, peaches and squash, grass-fed beef and bison, farm-fresh eggs, local fruit jams and jellies, plants, handmade soaps and body products, freshly baked yeast breads, sweet breads, cookies, pies and homemade tortillas, handmade bags and quilts, and more.

“Farmers Markets provide a unique opportunity for customers to connect directly with the people who grow, raise and create their food,” volunteer market coordinator Sarah Werner said. “As customers take time to ask questions of the farmers and vendors at market, they are able to connect with their food in a way possible in few other settings. Vendors love to talk about their products and share what they know.

“What’s more, farmers markets operate as a business incubator, offering a space for start-up businesses to try out a concept and develop a customer base with little overhead cost. Farmers markets are a unique and valuable element of our community, and we hope that those who value their hometown farmers markets will come out and support them on a regular basis.”

The Walnut Valley Farmers Market has been working this year to be able to accept SNAP/EBT. Market leadership anticipates a soft roll-out of SNAP/EBT at market toward the end of this season, with the program fully functioning in 2020. Many produce vendors at the Walnut Valley Farmers Market already accept the Senior Farmers Market Nutrition Program vouchers.

“Farmers markets play a vital role not just in generating real income for farmers but in forming a healthy, prosperous food systems,” said Jen Cheek, program director of the Farmers Market Coalition. “By providing the opportunity for farmers to connect directly with consumers, markets serve as education centers. Vendors are teaching customers about agriculture and sharing recipes and new foods with their neighbors. Markets are making people and communities stronger and healthier.”

Visit the Walnut Valley Farmers Market from 7:30 to 11 a.m. each Saturday through Sept. 28 at the entrance to Island Park. Follow them on Facebook and Instagram for the most up-to-date information.

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