During the past two years, the Payson Farmers Market has grown from a mere thought to a flourishing weekend event with 35 vendors selling everything from bread and pickles to olives and hummus.
The market has incubated local start-up businesses and expanded local access to fresh, often chemical free, produce and artisan foods. New this year in Payson, people in the Women, Infants and Children Nutrition Program and qualifying low-income senior citizens can buy produce from the market.
“Farmers markets are good for your health, good for your community and good for the economy,” said Stacy Miller, executive director of the Farmers Market Coalition in a press release.
To celebrate the success, the U.S. Department of Agriculture declared the week of Aug. 1 through 7 National Farmers Market Week. During Saturday’s market in Payson, come and win prizes while listening to musical entertainment from Jean Wilcox-Hibben & Uncle Butch of the Mormon Pioneers, along with Anne James. Enjoy cooking demonstrations at 9:30 a.m. and 11 a.m., and win trivia prizes for market items.
Raffle winners can score a trip for two on the Grand Canyon Railway or a trip for two on the Verde Canyon Railroad, which includes dinner and a show at the Blazin’ M Ranch. Other prizes include a “best of the market” gift basket and a trip to the Firing Pin Gun Show.
Farmers market lovers praise the connected feeling that comes from meeting the farmer who grew your food. They say eating recently picked food — sometimes the tomato on the table left the vine just the night before — intensifies the taste. And some experts say that locally grown food provides more nutrients than food shipped hundreds of miles.
The market runs from 8 a.m. to noon every Saturday in the movie theater parking lot off Beeline Highway. It features five farmers, a backyard growers’ co-op table, and vendors selling cheese, chocolate, salsa, coffee, free range beef, eggs, honey, oils and vinegars. Other features include a massage chair, burritos and pulled pork or sub sandwiches.
Direct access to local food marks a key element of farmers markets. At Payson’s market, all goods come from vendors who live within 100 miles of town, and 10 vendors live in town.
Payson’s success reflects a growing trend — from 2009 to 2010 alone the number of farmers markets across the country grew by 16 percent up to 6,000, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
In 2009, farmers markets accounted for $1.3 billion in direct farm-to-consumer sales, also according to the USDA.
National Farmers Market Week began in 2000, and even the USDA organizes a farmers market every Friday from June through October in Washington, D.C.
Payson’s market runs until Oct. 16.
For more information, visit PaysonFarmers