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USDA reports increase in farmers markets open in winter

Virginia, for example, nearly doubled its winter markets with 40 operating in 2011, compared to the 21 in 2010.

“Consumers want to buy locally-grown food throughout the year,” said Matthew J. Lohr, the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services Commissioner, in a release announcing the USDA rankings. “Winter or year-round markets are able to meet this need and bring in additional income to support farm families.”

Virginia markets, Lohr said, have state-grown produce such as spinach, other greens, sweet potatoes, apples and herbs in addition to jams, jellies, milk, meats, eggs, cheeses and honey during the winter.

The USDA attributes the increase in winter markets to the use of “hoop house technology.” These structures, types of greenhouses, enable growers to extend their growing seasons, the department notes.

By Bobbie Whitehead

Interest in home-grown produce, along with more growers adopting cool season planting methods, has resulted more farmers markets operating in the winter months.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture reports that markets open in the winter increased by 38 percents since 2010, growing from 886 to 1,225. Officials define winter markets as those that operate from November to March at least once.

“Consumers are looking for more ways to buy locally grown food throughout the year," said Agriculture Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan, according to a USDA press release. “Through winter markets, American farmers are able to meet this need and bring in additional income to support their families and businesses.”

The top 10 states with winter markets include New York, California, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, Ohio, Maryland, Florida, Massachusetts, Virginia and Michigan. Virginia and Michigan are the latest additions to the USDA top 10 winter markets list.

New York ranks first with 180 winter markets for 2011, almost a 20 percent increase from 152 winter markets operating there in 2010.

Winter markets, which usually have apples in Virginia, are those that open from November to March at least once, as defined by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

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