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What's making farmers markets grow?

The Wednesday farmers market in Pershing Square in downtown Los Angeles features local fruits and vegetables from surrounding areas.

TEXT OF STORY

Bob Moon: Ah, who doesn't love a ripe rutabaga in the summertime? OK, the ripest produce of any kind, for that matter, which really speaks to cutting out the middlemen, and buying your fruits and veggies straight from the farmer. There's good news out today if that's your preference: The USDA reports a bumper crop of farmer's markets. They've shot up by 16 percent in the last year.

Marketplace's Adriene Hill went to find out why.


Adriene Hill: It's early in the day at a small farmer's market in downtown LA. This is one of more than 6,000 farmer's markets in the country -- the number's more than doubled in the last decade.

Fernanda Torres is selling plums and peaches for $2.50 a pound -- more than twice as much as the local grocery.

Fernanda Torres: A lot of customers complain about the price.

Even so, business has been good -- in spite of the price premium.

Torres: At the end of the day, after they try the sample, they fall in love with the fruit because of the taste.

Yahru Baruti's there picking out plums.

Yahru Baruti: We like to buy locally, so we know where the produce comes from. And also, oftentimes, the produce is organic.

Wayne Howard is the chair of the agribusiness department at Cal Poly.

Hill: Are farmer's markets really for wealthy urbanites?

Wayne Howard: I'm afraid that's one of characterizing it.

Howard says there are markets everywhere, so it's not just city-dwellers buying fresh produce. He says a lot of it has to do with food shows on TV. A lot us want to be chefs using only the freshest ingredients. And all that demand is good for farmers, who get to cut out the middle man.

Howard: I knew a cherry farmer up in Ontario, Canada, who said he sold 5 percent of his cherry crop through a roadside stand in a local farmer's market, and that accounted for 50 percent of his total revenue.

Howard says the huge demand for farmer's markets does open up the possibility that some people are selling fruits and vegetables they didn't grow. You've got to ask, where'd that tomato come from?

I'm Adriene Hill for Marketplace.

Moon: By the way, if you think farmer's markets are just coooool as a cucumber, we'd like your help putting together a slideshow picturing your favorite farmer's markets. You can check out the photos so far and offer your own submissions. See our slideshow.

About the author

Adriene Hill is the senior multimedia reporter for LearningCurve.

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