The Department of Environmental Management announced Wednesday that public participation at the two farmers’ markets it runs increased by nearly 17% in 2022 over 2021. Over the year, total attendance went from a combined 29,634 customers to 34,546 customers at the Fishermen’s Memorial State Park and Campground market in Narragansett and the Goddard Memorial State Park market in Warwick. An average of 1,327 customers and 24 vendors a week participated at the Fishermen’s Memorial market, while 721 customers and 24 vendors participated in the weekly markets at Goddard. In all, there were 26 farming vendors, 12 food vendors (baked goods and prepared meals), and 11 specialty businesses (skin products, dog treats, etc.) at the markets in 2022, according to the DEM Division of Agriculture and Forest Environment . The 2022 attendance number is the highest since DEM began tracking it in 2019.
“You can’t have farmers’ markets without farmers and DEM would like to thank all the Rhode Island farmers, along with food producers, bakers, and artisanal specialty businesses, that participate,” said DEM Director Terry Gray. “Connecting rural to urban, farmer to consumer, and fresh ingredients to our diets, farmers’ markets fill an important economic and community niche in our food system. I’m glad to recognize the DEM Division of Agriculture and Forest Environment and particularly Jack Sisson, Ananda Fraser, Chris Rueckel, and Jordynn Cahoon for their effectiveness and enthusiasm in leading our farmers’ market program.”
When food is produced, processed, distributed, and sold all within the same region, more money stays in the local economy. This leads to economic development and job creation. Farmers’ markets provide opportunities for small farmers and businesses to sell their products, and they help meet the growing demand for locally produced food. Being able to quickly and directly market to the consumer gives farmers important income opportunities without the added costs of shipping, storage, and inventory control. Farmers’ markets also strengthen food security by making fresh, nutritious, affordable food more accessible to more community members.
As is the case in many states across the country, DEM’s farmers’ markets accept Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and Women, Infants and Children (WIC) benefits. By accepting SNAP benefits, farmers’ markets are providing access to a wide variety of fresh, healthy products. Through a partnership with Farm Fresh Rhode Island, the DEM farmers’ markets can provide a 100% matching bonus on SNAP purchases. This means for every SNAP dollar spent, shoppers get $1 free in Bonus Bucks to spend on fresh fruit, vegetables, and herbs from local farms. The DEM markets saw a 55% increase in electronic benefit transfer (EBT) sales in 2022 versus 2021.
For a list of farmers’ markets operating throughout the state, visit the RI Grown website. Launched in 2009 with the statewide “Get Fresh, Buy Local” marketing campaign, this program aims to help growers distinguish their locally grown products. Use of the RI Grown logo seeks to heighten recognition and highlight Rhode Island-grown products to both consumers and wholesale buyers. DEM encourages growers to use the logo to distinguish their products. For farms that participate in the program, DEM offers a range of promotional materials and a listing on an interactive farm map.
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