FROM FARM TO MARKET – GROWING FOR HEALTH AND PROSPERITY
M. Bailey, UF/IFAS Extension, Marion County, Ocala, FL.
Situation: Marion County features seven established farmers markets where vendors sell a variety of agricultural products that are locally grown as well as non-locally grown. Locally grown agricultural products are the cornerstone of a local food system. Current and prospective local producers face the challenge of out of state competition as well as food imports from across the world. There is a need to support local producers with educational programs that are relevant to their interests. Doing so will allow them to remain competitive while continuing their contribution to the local food system. Increasing the availability of outlets for local producers in the form of farmers markets that emphasize locally produced agricultural products will provide direct support to the local food system.
Methods: In coordination with Measure Up Marion, a community health advocacy organization, a two part event was held to provide information for current as well as prospective local producers to encourage them to grow produce specifically for the local market. Eleven presentations were made by five presenters to an audience of twelve local producers, prospective producers, and farmers market managers. Results: Program evaluations indicated that all respondents (n=10) found the information to be useful and relevant to their objectives. All respondents detailed at least one thing they learned that was new or applicable to their objectives. A new farmers market was established that emphasizes locally produced agricultural products. Conclusion: The establishment of farmers markets is an important step for helping local producers increase revenue that will allow their enterprises to continue and potentially expand. Consumers will benefit by having a choice of local foods that support the local agricultural economy.