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(post, Colleen Levine)
The Farmers Market Coalition, who notes that the number of farmers markets in the U.S. has increased by 170% in the past 10 years, recently asked, "Why do you love your farmers market?" My response: "Because my son knows his cheesemaker, his apple growers, and his meat producers by name." There are two farmers markets here in Alexandria, Va., that are between our house and the nearest grocery stores, so it would be hard to justify passing up the market in favor of flavorless supermarket produce. We love Bigg Riggs' array of apples and peaches, Kuhn's sweet berries and plums, Three Way Farm's luscious melons, Smith Meadows' grass-fed beef and handmade pastas, Tom's cave-aged cheddar, Grace's pumpkin loaf, and many more products and producers from across the Chesapeake Bay foodshed. I've written before about the many lessons kids can learn by shopping at the market, but the most important is an understanding and appreciation of where their food comes from. We certainly don't have time to go to the farm every week, and together my son and I can't even manage to keep an herb pot alive, so we will drag ourselves out rain or shine to support the farmers who wake up before dawn, after a hard week of manual labor, to truck their wares into town. I do support any effort that makes people more aware of their neighborhood farmers markets, so go to the Care2/LocalHarvest contest (where the winning market receives $5,000) and the American Farmland Trust contest (winning markets get free No Farms No Food tote bags) to vote for your favorite markets, if you can choose just one. Of course you can share the love and vote for different markets in each, if you like. (The Care2 poll is open until Sept. 17, but the AFT contest ends at midnight this Saturday, August 8, so vote today!) And, one more chance to win -- Submit a photo of your tot(s) at the market to the Foodie Tots <3 Farmers Markets contest during the week (August 2-9) and you'll have a chance to win a kid-sized reusable market tote filled with foodie goodies. Hope you'll stop by to share what you love about your farmers market!