Montana joins markets across the country in celebrating National Farmers Market Week, August 6-12, 2023. The National Center for Appropriate Technology (NCAT), which coordinates the Montana Farmers Market Network, encourages everyone to celebrate by shopping at local farmers markets this week and every week. Farmers markets connect community members with the people who grow our food, which can work to create a more fair and sustainable food system.
“Farmers Markets in Montana are hubs of economic development, often acting like new business incubators,” says Tammy Howard, an agriculture specialist at NCAT. “Farmers markets create opportunities for vendors to expand their marketing platforms through product development, testing, and brand recognition.”
National Farmers Market Week is an annual celebration of farmers markets proclaimed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and coordinated by the Farmers Market Coalition, a membership-based nonprofit organization that supports farmers markets nationwide through training, technical assistance, and network-building. This year, the campaign is centered around the essential role that farmers market operators play, both in our local food systems and in our communities. For more than 50 years, farmers markets have influenced the way we eat, shop, and connect to our food, farmers, and each other.
“Over the last three years, I have seen firsthand how farmers markets provide a place for small operations to grow into thriving businesses,” says Maura Henn, Community Food Systems Specialist at NCAT. “Farmers markets not only help communities understand where their food and farm products come from, but also encourage more people to grow and prepare their own food,” says Henn.
In a 2022 report, Montana Farmers Markets were found to provide an average of 250 full-time jobs. In addition to this, the report found that nearly 5,000 individuals work to produce the goods and services offered each week during Montana farmers market season.
There are 76 farmers markets in Montana operating in 2023 according to the Abundant Montana Directory. Of those markets, 29 accept SNAP benefits making fresh, locally produced products accessible to more Montanans and 20 farmers markets also participate in the Double SNAP Dollars Program which matches a customer’s SNAP benefit. The Double SNAP Dollars program has served nearly 9,000 Montanans and has recirculated more than $1 million to local farmers, ranchers, and farmers markets.
In addition to special events like music, cooking classes, or yoga, some markets provide educational opportunities to learn about local food through the Montana Harvest of the Month Program. This year, five markets offer Harvest of the Month activities. Farmers markets are also important partners in the SNAP-Ed program. In 2022, 19 farmers markets participated in SNAP-Ed which helped increase access to and promotion of fruits and vegetables to youth and adults in Montana.
Montana farmers markets are also important for vulnerable populations to access nutritious foods. Almost 200 farmers statewide accept Senior Farmers Market Nutrition Program coupons which provide almost $50 in coupons to help seniors purchase Montana grown fresh fruits, vegetables, and raw honey. In 2023, 88 farmers are authorized to accept the Women, Infant, and Children Farmer Market Nutrition Program (WIC FMNP) vouchers, many of whom operate at farmers markets.
To find a farmers market near you visit AERO’s Abundant Montana Directory.
The Montana Farmers Market Network is a coalition of partners coordinated by NCAT, including farmers market managers, the Community Food and Agriculture Coalition, AERO, and the Montana Department of Agriculture.