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Farmers markets growing

USDA announces increase of venues across the nation, city sees similar rise in local foot traffic

Posted: August 4, 2012 2:00 a.m.
Updated: August 4, 2012 2:00 a.m.

Pedro Aguilar arranges the strawberries at the E&M Family Farms produce stand as he prepares to open for business at the farmers market on Main Street in Newhall in March.

 

Friday may not have had idyllic farmers market conditions, but the weather hasn‘t dampened enthusiasm for markets, according to officials.

The homegrown, community-based venues have increased nearly 10 percent over the last year, according to a U.S. Department of Agriculture news release.

That certainly bears true locally, where the city has seen a substantial increase locally in its foot traffic, according to city officials.

The Newhall market has been an asset that’s helped drive interest in the old-town portion of the city, said Gail Ortiz, city spokeswoman.

In fact, over the last four to six weeks, the city has seen a 50-percent increase in foot traffic and a 25-percent increase in sales, according to city figures.

“Our vendors are seeing increases, and we’re seeing better foot traffic across all age groups,” Ortiz said.

The last two hours of the market, a partnership between the city, the Performing Arts Center at College of the Canyons and the Ford Theater Foundation has provided entertainment and a big uptick in visitors.

“These outlets provide benefits not only to the farmers looking for important income opportunities, but also for communities looking for fresh, healthy foods,” said Kathleen Merrigan, agriculture deputy secretary.

The markets have increased nationwide from 7,175 last year to 7,864 this year, according to USDA numbers. The announcement comes on the eve of National Farmers Market Week, which begins Sunday.

The Santa Clarita Valley offers two farmers markets — one in Newhall, and another in Valencia.

The city hosts the Old Town Newhall Farmers Market in downtown Newhall, 4-8 p.m. on Thursdays.

The Valencia market takes place in College of the Canyons stadium parking lot from 8:30 a.m. to noon every Sunday.

The top states, in terms of the number of markets reported in the directory, include California (827 markets), New York (647 markets), Massachusetts (313 markets), Michigan (311 markets) and Wisconsin (298 markets).

The federal government has made a concerted effort to increase farmers market involvement, including the spending of $4 million to increase the number of market places that can accept food stamps. Currently, roughly one-third of markets accept Electronic Benefit Transfers, a federal aid program.

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