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Arkansas House: Visit your local farmers’ market

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Weekly column written for members of the Arkansas House of Representatives:

It is estimated that for every dollar you spend at the grocery store, only 11 cents goes to a farmer. More than 30 cents of every dollar goes to pay for processing, packing, and transporting.

This summer, Arkansans have an opportunity to give our farmers a larger share of the profit all while accessing fresh locally grown produce.

There are more than 100 farmers’ markets across the state. While some operate year round, you will never have trouble finding one near you in the summer months.

The markets provide a low-barrier entry point for beginning farmers, allowing them to start small, test the market, and grow their businesses. Arkansas Farm Bureau estimates that 13 jobs are created for every $1 million of revenue from a market.

Farmers’ markets aren’t just an opportunity to buy food. They provide a family friendly opportunity to interact with your neighbors and community. Additionally, the social connections that are facilitated by farmers' markets allow producers and consumers to build relationships. Farmers’ market vendors educate their shoppers. In fact, four out of five farmers selling at markets discuss farming practices with their customers, and three in five discuss nutrition and how to prepare food.

Farmers’ markets have fruits and vegetables at the peak of the growing season. This means produce is at its freshest and tastes the best. The food is typically grown near where you live, not thousands of miles away or another country.

In the summer, Arkansans can find locally grown strawberries, blackberries, peaches, and watermelons just to name a few.

Because of the nutrition and affordability, many vendors have now started accepting EBT cards from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. In some cases, SNAP recipients can double their purchasing power at a participating market.

Arkansas is home to more than 43,000 farms. Some 97 percent of those farms are family owned. Take the time this year to support our state’s number one industry.

You can find a farmers’ market near you by visitingwww.arkansasfarmersmarketassociation.com

South Arkansas state representatives:

District 2 – (Parts of Columbia, Lafayette and Miller counties). Lane Jean, Republican. 1105 Lawton Circle, Magnolia, 71753. 870-904-1856. l_jean@sbcglobal.net

District 5 (Parts of Columbia, Ouachita, Lafayette and Nevada counties) – David Fielding, Democrat. 909 S. Vine, Magnolia, 71753. 870-234-6143. david.fielding@house.ar.gov

District 6 – (Parts of Columbia, Union and Ouachita counties). Matthew J. Shepherd, Republican. 200 N. Jackson Ave. No. 600, El Dorado, 71730. 870-862-2087. matthew.shepherd@house.ar.gov