Farmers' markets in W.Va. nearly triple over four years

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Farmers' markets in W.Va. nearly triple over four years
Farmers' Markets are growing increasingly popular in West Virginia as the state's population rebounds. (Photo Shelley Pauls)

CHARLESTON, W.Va.—Over the last four years, the number of farmers’ markets in West Virginia has nearly tripled, according to the W.Va. Department of Agriculture.

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In 2019, there were 93 registered markets across the state. Now there are 267, according to Commissioner of Agriculture Kent Leonhardt.

“Coming out of a pandemic that shut down food manufacturers, higher energy prices, supply chain issues, rising inflation, and the military conflict in Ukraine, now more than ever we need to focus on food security.

"To avoid a potential national food shortage, we must expand access to fresh, local foods. Frankly, we need more people in West Virginia to contribute to our local food systems. That starts at the community farmers’ market.”

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During Leonhardt’s administration, the department worked with the Legislature to reduce burdens and barriers on farmers’ markets, making it easier for communities to register and start markets.

Legislation has been passed to deregulate non-potentially hazardous foods and allow potentially hazardous foods, such as vinegar-based products, to be sold at markets.

The department has also redeveloped and rebranded its "WV Grown" program, expanded its "Veterans and Heroes to Agriculture" program, and provided additional funding to farmers’ markets around the state.

“The best thing the government can do is support and get out of the way of those who grow our food,” Leonhardt said.

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"We have continued to work with organizations such as the Farmers Market Association, Food and Farm Coalition, Institute for Justice, and the Farm Bureau to expand markets around the State. We are on the right track towards building food resiliency.”

The department is celebrating the tremendous growth during National Farmers’ Market Week, August 7-13, Leonardt said

The first National Farmers’ Market Week was established in 1999 by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The week is a celebration of the hard work and dedication of the local farmer and agriculture businesses in making farmers’ markets an integral part of the communities in which they are located.

To find your local farmers’ market, visit https://agriculture.wv.gov/farmers-market-search/.

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