06.09.09

SCHUMER PUSHES USDA TO CREATE NEW, INFORMATIVE FARMERS MARKET WEBSITE TO PROMOTE BENEFITS OF LOCALLY GROWN FOOD AND HELP MARKETS THRIVE

Current USDA-Run Website is Outdated and Hard to Navigate Making it Difficult for Farmers Markets to Survive - A Quarter of all New Farmers Markets FailIn Letter, Schumer Urges USDA to Create New, Better Website that Promotes Farmers Markets and Alerts Consumers to the Market Location, Type Of Vendors and If They Participate in Food Assistance ProgramsSchumer: Our Farmers Markets Need Clear, Consistent Web Promotion in Order to Survive

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U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer today wrote to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) urging them to enhance their efforts to promote farmers markets and the benefits of locally grown food by creating a new, informative and easy to navigate website.  The current site is outdated, difficult to access and search , and it does not provide a comprehensive list of the available markets in New York State. The site is also not wellpromoted by the USDA , meaning that many people are unaware of the resource.  A new and improved website will help promote farmers markets and make sure more of them are successful.     

 

Schumer also urged that the website list which famers markets participate in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly the food stamp program, as an effort to encourage more lowerincome individuals to take advantage of their local farmers markets, and programs geared towards promoting healthy eating.

 

"Farmers markets need clear , consistent promotion in order to survive their first few years, and even already established markets can benefit from clearer, more concise information about their goods, vendors, and hours of operation," said Schumer. "A more comprehensive website will help promote and popularize the benefits of locally grown food to consumers throughout the state to help provide our farmers with an economic boost. I urge the USDA to focus their efforts on this project so that the new website is as up to date and as informative as possible."

 

Farmers markets, particularly in the Capital Region, have experienced a recent boom with new farmers markets starting in Albany, Schenectady, and Troy.  During tough economic times, families looking to cut costs from their grocery bills can save money by purchasing items at local farmers markets instead of big chain supermarkets which often increase prices to account for transportation and employee costs.

A thriving farmers' market can be a winwin for both consumers and famers. When successful, this form of civic agriculture can help communities realize their economic potential and place a greater emphasis on their social and environmental goals.

Currently, the USDA runs a website through the Agricultural Marketing Service that is designed to maintain a current listing of farmers markets throughout the United States. However, despite the fact that the website claims to update regularly, the site does not offer an accurate listing of markets.  For example, if you search for a Farmers Market in Albany, the search displays a market in Brooklyn. The Downtown Albany Farmers' Market and t he Central Avenue Farmers' Market are both located in Albany but are not listed on the site.

 

The current website is also limited by the amount of information it provides about each market. The website lists the location, the form of payment accepted and if it is open year round. A more comprehensive website could also provide driving directions, market hours, and more information about the individual vendors.    

 

Schumer noted that a new website could also detail whether the market participated in the SNAP program or if it is a certified organic market. 

 

A new, better organized website would also benefit the vendors themselves. The website could be used to link emerging farmers markets with family farmers interested in participating.  Farmers markets aim to recruit the best local vendors and this website could enable vendors and markets to connect.

 

Statistics show that a quarter of all new farmers markets fail. Many of these failed markets might have been saved if they had been promoted to a wider consumer group. At the same time, growing farmers markets could also benefit from a better managed web site that will enable them to publicize the types of food they have to offer and what times they will be open.

 

To help local farmers markets succeed, Schumer today wrote to USDA Secretary Thomas Vilsack, urging them to create a new, more informative website that will not only correctly locate every farmers market in New York State, but also provide information about each market and whether or not they participate in the SNAP program. Senator Schumer also suggested that the USDA choose a simple, easy to remember domain name.

 

In the letter, he wrote, "While I appreciate USDA's past efforts, now is the time to redouble our efforts with both an interactive and easy to access web site promoting farmers markets. 

I believe an important step is creating a more comprehensive web site with an easy to use domain name such as www.farmersmarkets.gov.  I urge the USDA to focus their efforts on this project so that the new website is as up to date and as informative as possible."

 

A full copy of the letter is below

 

 

 

                                                                        June 9, 2009

 

 

Honorable Thomas Vilsack

Secretary

US Department of Agriculture

14 th Street & Independence Avenue, SW

Washington, DC 20250

 

 

Dear Secretary Vilsack,

 

I write to urge the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to do everything within its power to more proactively promote our farmers markets through a new interactive and innovative website devoted to raising their profile.

 

As you are aware, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has long recognized the importance of farmers markets to both consumers and family farmers.  Consumers know the many benefits that farmers markets provide including the freshest locally grown produce and goods.  Farmers realize by selling their goods at the farmers market they make a greater profit on what they produce.  We know that farmers markets thrive and grow only when the community can quickly and conveniently access their local farmers markets. 

 

Farmer markets in general need clear consistent promotion in order to survive their first few years, and even already established markets can benefit from clearer, more concise information about their goods, vendors, and hours of operation.  While I appreciate USDA's past efforts, now is the time to redouble our efforts with both an interactive and easytoaccess web site promoting farmers markets. 

 

The current website is limited by the amount of information it provides about each market.  A more informative website could provide driving directions, market hours, facts about the individual vendors, and information about purchasing food through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).  I believe an important step is creating a more comprehensive web site with an easy to use domain name such as www.farmersmarkets.gov.  I urge the USDA to focus their efforts on this project so that the new website is as up to date and as informative as possible.

 

Thank you for your consideration.

 

                                                                                    Sincerely,

 

 

 

 

                                                                                    Charles E. Schumer

                                                                                    United States Senator

 

 

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