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Some Americans Find Farmer’s Market Offers Best Fresh Produce

Farmers markets, where farmers sell directly to consumers, continue to rise in popularity in the U.S.

Most Americans buy fruits and vegetables in supermarkets. The mass-production and national distribution mean produce is picked days before it ripens, so it ships without damage. For the sake of convenience, many items are frozen or pre-packaged, such as salad that is prepared, washed and put into plastic bags.

But some people prefer a shopping experience they find more genuine.

Shopper Linda Allenman shares why she’s a regular, " This stuff is so much better. This stuff was picked a couple of days ago if that wasn't picked yesterday. The stuff in a grocery store was picked two weeks ago."

This is part of Linda Alleman's weekend activities: coming to the farmers market at Dupont Circle in Washington, DC, every Sunday. Beth Jordan, also a regular shopper, "I love it. I love it is like milling around. It's a great thing to do in the Sunday morning. I love flowers, cheeses, milks, fruits and vegetables."

In recent years, shopping at farmers markets, which are open mostly on the weekend, has become a popular pastime in U.S. cities. The markets offer more than just fresh produce. Like "Peach soup, and a peach soup recipe. I do every thing that I promise to you. Thank you very much" said one merchant.

Mark Toigo explains his philosophy, "We have a lot of fun. We exchange food recipes and ideas. I think we are part of the community here now. That's really important to have a successful market is to have a customer, patron and a grower work together."

Mark Toigo runs the family farm that his parents started in the early 1970s in Shippensburg, Pennsylvania, about 180 kilometers from Washington, DC. He says, "Well, I think it is a great opportunity for a family farmer. For the small family farms it's really the only way right now. It is the salvation for bringing revenue into the farm."

Throughout the U.S., a growing number of American farmers are staying in business by selling directly to consumers. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the number of farmers markets has grown dramatically, 110 percent from 1994 to 2004, to more than 3,700.

The trend supports both small farms and local economies and maintains a connection between urban and rural areas.

John Campagna is a manager at the Dupont Circle farmers market where on the average 3,500 customers shop each Sunday morning. "For too long we have industrialized our agriculture. Now by having local farmers be successful around the city area, you are creating different types of jobs, agricultural jobs that would be going away. And too, you are maintaining life in the countryside within driving distance of major metropolitan areas."

Mark adds, “We are growers and retailers. We are no longer just growers. We have to know what is going on out on the street. We have to follow food trends. We have to stay close to our customers. We have to make sure that we are meeting their demands."

A good way to make sure of that is to meet the customers face to face at weekly Farmer’s Markets.