United States Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack has proclaimed August 3 – 9 as National Farmers Market Week. In celebration, the Downtown Elgin Harvest Market, organized by the Downtown Neighborhood Association of Elgin and presented by Alexian Brothers Health Systems, will be having the United States Post Office out between 11am – 2pm selling four new Farmers Market stamps, Sheets of 20 Farmers Market stamps sell for $9.80 and will be available, and there will be a “Round Fruit Roll” raffle where anyone visiting the market can roll bruised fruit into bushel baskets for a chance to win of the three market baskets of local produce and products from the vendors.
This year marks the 15th annual National Farmers Market Week and also the Downtown Elgin Harvest Market’s 15th season. Since the USDA began declaring National Farmers Market Week, the number of farmers markets has more than doubled, from 2,863 markets in 2000 to over 8,000 in 2013. There are over 347 farmers markets in Illinois alone. These numbers have continued to rise in 2014 as farmers markets become fresh food mainstays for shoppers across all socio-economic, political, and ethnic ranges. Farmers markets bolster local economies, improve community health, and bring diverse groups of people together through a shared social space.
The Downtown Elgin currently has 25 vendors selling a wide variety of products, including 5 vegetable and fruit farms, three bread and cupcake businesses, olive oil and balsamic vinegar, spices, honey, soaps and lotions, concession stands, art and jewelry, cheese, tea and coffee, jams and jellies, etc. In the most recent season, the Downtown Elgin Harvest Market generated just through their token systems sales (for those who wanted to use their credit, debit, or Link card) $17,210 for these local producers, a valuable economic boost for the region. A large part was due to the partnership of BMO Harris Bank who in 2013 and this season has offered customers with the Link card a double value match up to $20 for every amount they spend with their card.
“Farmers markets grow healthy farms, healthy people, and healthy communities” says Pat Stieren, Executive Director of the Illinois Farmers Market Association. “During a slow economic recovery, farmers markets are stand-out successes in delivering triple bottom line benefits while making entrepreneurship work in communities large and small. During Farmers Market Week, we invite everyone to celebrate their local farmers markets and enjoy fresh local food from America’s most innovative farmers.