Bragging on my Farmer’s Market—Williamsburg wins American Farmland Trust contest

Even as summer winds down, lovers of produce know that the bounty is still flowing at your local Farmers Market (if you are lucky to live near one). And this past weekend was particularly bountiful at my local market: Williamsburg was crowned this year as America’s Favorite Farmers Market! In a summer-long contest by American Farmland Trust, nearly 30,000 Americans voted for their favorite local farmers market, and Williamsburg swept the medium category (31-55 vendors).

About the Contest

The America’s Favorite Farmers Market™ contest is designed to build excitement and awareness of farmers markets, and to recognize markets that provide outstanding quality and variety of local produce. Plus, the effort has resulted in increased awareness of AFT’s mission and helped garner new subscribers and donors. 2009 was the first year of the contest, which was the brainchild of Gretchen Hoffman and Jane Kirchner in AFT’s Marketing department, and Julia Freedgood, Director of AFT’s Growing Local Campaign. It was a complex effort, including outreach to managers of farmers markets (mostly via phone), promoting the contest through news media, encouraging existing supporters to participate and spread the word using Convio eCards, and social media (a Cause on Facebook). In addition, AFT built an online map of participating farmers markets using Google Maps.

According to Hoffman, the contest has been a great success and succeeded beyond their original expectations. The number of markets that participated was more than twice what they had hoped, and web traffic was up over 150% from summer months the previous year. Local media has provided coverage of the awards, and local supporters have helped to spread the word through private email lists and handing out fliers at farmers markets.

Why it’s Important

As Freedgood said in her remarks at the award ceremony, farmers markets are “part of a growing movement, a new kind of food system that brings farms and people together.” The benefits are many: farmers have new markets to maintain income, and consumers have direct access to the freshest possible produce. Plus, it helps to lower fossil fuel consumption by reducing the distance food travels from a farmer’s field to our dinner table.

Farmers markets are a critical link in our food chain, and one of the best ways to support farms, farmers, and our local economies. American Farmland Trust is dedicated to saving farm and ranch land, and keeping farmers farming. Supporting farmers markets is an important way to support AFT’s mission.

The Takeaway

To all of you feeling a tad wistful about the end of summer, I encourage you to do one thing this weekend—go spend at least $10 at a farmers market in your community. It will help the planet, it will help a local farmer, it will boost your local economy, and most of all you will enjoy it. If you already go, try to take a friend this time.

P.S.: To my esteemed colleagues in Austin I say, being in the top 20 ain’t bad, but try harder next year! 🙂