SPRINGFIELD – Applauding their contributions to a nutritious diet and the health of rural economies, Governor Rod R. Blagojevich proclaimed next week “Farmers Market Week” in Illinois.
“During the summer months, farmers markets are booming across Illinois – offering consumers homegrown, farm-fresh, affordable fruit and vegetables,” said Gov. Blagojevich. “During Farmers Market Week, we recognize how important these markets are to our local communities and their economies.”
The number of farmers markets in Illinois has grown significantly. More than 180 farmers markets currently operate throughout the state, up from 97 in 1999. According to the 2003 Illinois Specialty Crop Survey, more than 117,000 acres of Illinois farmland is devoted to growing specialty crops, producing nearly $137 million in sales for Illinois farmers.
“Small- and medium-sized farms grow most of our specialty crops, and their financial well-being is good for local economies, good for consumers and, ultimately, good for our entire state,” Illinois Department of Agriculture Director Chuck Hartke added. “Communities that sponsor farmers markets benefit from the resulting tourism. Consumers, of course, benefit from the availability of wholesome, locally-grown food. And, the trust that develops as consumers get to know the farmers who grew their produce raises confidence in our food supply, creates demand for our food products and strengthens the health of an industry that employs nearly one of every four Illinois workers.”
Illinois is the largest producer of pumpkins and horseradish in the nation and ranks among the top ten states in the production of other specialty crops such as asparagus, cauliflower, fresh cut herbs, green peas, lima beans, mustard greens and snap peas.
Through the Governor’s Opportunity Returns economic development program, the Illinois Department of Agriculture has invested nearly $200,000 the past two years to strengthen the state’s specialty crop industry. Specialty crop grant funds have been used to help farmers markets create promotional materials and advertisements and to develop an “Illinois, Where Fresh Is” marketing campaign that brands Illinois food products and encourages consumers to buy local and buy fresh. Illinois farmers and specialty crop companies are eligible to use the “Illinois, Where Fresh Is” logo to help consumers quickly and easily identify their specialty crops at farmers markets and grocery stores.
A directory of farmers markets in Illinois can be obtained by visiting the Illinois Department of Agriculture’s website at www.agr.state.il.us or by calling 217-782-6675.
The full text of the proclamation follows:
August 6-12, 2006
FARMERS MARKET WEEK
WHEREAS, farmers markets are important outlets in Illinois and the entire United States for agricultural producers, providing them with increased marketing opportunities; and
WHEREAS, direct marketing of farm products through farmers markets continues to be an important sales outlet for agricultural producers nationwide with approximately 19,000 farmers selling their produce only at farmers markets; and
WHEREAS, more than 180 farmers markets in Illinois and 3,800 farmers markets across the country offer consumers farm-fresh, affordable, convenient, and healthy products such as fruits, vegetables, cheeses, herbs, fish, flowers, baked goods, meat, and much more; and
WHEREAS, farmers markets serve as an integral link between urban, suburban, and rural communities; and
WHEREAS, the popularity of farmers markets continues to rise as more and more consumers discover the joys of shopping for unique ingredients sold directly from the farm as well as the pleasure of buying familiar products in their freshest possible state; and
WHEREAS, the farmers of Illinois as well as the entire United States provide for the consumer’s needs while at the same time continue to be excellent stewards of the land; and
WHEREAS, according to the 2003 Illinois Specialty Crop Survey there are more than 117,000 acres in Illinois devoted to the production of fresh and processed specialty crops, which result in $136,664,000 in specialty crop sales for Illinois farmers; and
WHEREAS, farmers markets support economic development in villages, towns, and cities throughout the State:
THEREFORE, I, Rod R. Blagojevich, Governor of the State of Illinois, do hereby proclaim August 6 - 12, 2006 as FARMERS MARKET WEEK in Illinois, and encourage all citizens to visit their local farmers markets and support the State’s specialty crop growers by “Buying Fresh & Buying Local.”