Montana farmers markets have become more than just quaint weekend gatherings; they are a growing economic force in the state and across the United States, according to a new study from the University of Montana’s Bureau of Business and Economic Research.
We spoke to Mara Henn, community food systems specialist at the National Center for Appropriate Technology headquartered in Butte, who described the scope of the UM study and the effects of farmers’ markets across the state.
“This study was conducted by the Bureau of Business and Economic Research at the University of Montana,” Henn began. “We really wanted to understand the economic impact and importance of farmers’ markets in Montana and really get a basic understanding of how many jobs farmers’ markets create and what kind of revenue they generate.”
Henn said the study confirmed his belief in the economic power of local Montana farmers’ markets.
“What we found was that farmers markets in 2021 (in Montana) generated $10.4 million in new spending and received $17.3 million in revenue,” she said. . “It really shows that farmers markets are a vital part of the state’s economy, especially for a state as large as Montana. We may have a small population, but that’s a lot of money.
Henn said it’s not just about the money, but about the number of Montanans who make a living through local farmers’ markets.
“It was really exciting to see that farmers’ markets provide over 250 full-time jobs and nearly 5,000 people working to produce the goods and services on offer each week,” she said. “So those 5,000 people are both paid and unpaid workers, which could mean families working together to get their goods and services to market every week, and there are also people who are paid at part-time.”
Henn said food safety and security are important at outdoor farmers’ markets, and organizers take extra steps to ensure food is fresh and consumers can enjoy it safely.
“A lot of growers go through GAP certification, which stands for ‘good agricultural practice’,” she said. “Farmers markets should also work closely with their county officials and local health and state health authorities to ensure they are following all guidelines. In fact, it’s almost impossible to have a farmers market without having some sort of permit.
Henn said this week has been declared National Farmers’ Market Week, and since Saturday is usually the most popular day for markets, she encourages all Montanans to visit their local farmers’ market and support their local agricultural economy.
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