Governor Timothy M. Kaine has proclaimed Aug. 3–9, 2008 Virginia Farmers Market Week in the Commonwealth. According to the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (VDACS), there is no better way to celebrate this special occasion than to visit one or several of the more than 130 farmers markets across the state.

Todd P. Haymore, VDACS commissioner, offered some reasons for the popularity of farmers markets and why their numbers have increased nearly 50 percent since 2003. “At these dynamic venues, you’ll find the freshest and best, from outstanding fruits, vegetables, herbs and heirloom produce to flowers, organic items, cheeses, meats, homemade preserves and so much more. Every one of these special products represents the best efforts of a local farmer who will likely be on hand to meet you and answer your questions.”

Freshness, flavor, variety, uniqueness, nutrition and food safety are other reasons customers cite for why they shop at Virginia farmers markets. Since the products are grown nearby, farmers can wait to harvest them until taste and texture are at their peak. Then they transport their produce a short distance up the road instead of across the country. The reduced time and mileage to market means the produce maintains its just-picked flavor and condition, and less energy is expended for transportation.

Consumers are not the only ones to enjoy the many benefits of farmers markets. Virginia farmers and producers reap rewards as well. These unique markets give new and small-scale farmers an initial outlet for their products and provide experienced agricultural producers with additional marketing and sales opportunities. All sellers have a chance to interact with buyers, to get their feedback and exchange ideas.

Farmers markets also benefit their communities by providing better access to nutritious foods, boosting the local economy and attracting tourists. Markets also help forge links among the urban, suburban and rural communities.

VDACS has another suggestion about how to celebrate Farmers Market Week. Take the challenge to Eat Local for a Day during the week of August 3-9. Choose only fresh Virginia Grown fruits and vegetables and delicious Virginia processed products for an entire day. And to spice it up, send us a video of your Eat Local day, showing which foods and beverages you chose and how you prepared and enjoyed them. The best video will win a prize packet of Virginia products and will be posted on the VDACS Web site and YouTube.

Read complete details at www.virginiagrown.com.