Early Sunday morning, I stopped by the grand opening of the Acton Farmers’ Market to say a few words and maybe buy a few items. While I had been to the Maynard Farmers’ Market last year during my campaign for State Senate, this visit was different — and not just because I was giving a speech.
Even before the ribbon was cut, the sense of community and interconnectedness was really strong. Not only did I know many of the residents checking out the fresh produce and baked goods, but the interaction between buyers and sellers was much more intimate. It wasn’t simply about picking up some groceries after work. It was the opportunity to buy local, healthier (organic) food, and to actually meet the producers of your food (not to mention almost no plastic bags!).
In my remarks to the gathering of a hundred-plus people before the ribbon cutting, I noted that the “buy local” movement found at so many farmers’ markets allows people to take action to create a more environmentally and economically sustainable consumer market. While the federal and state government wrestle with how to encourage Americans to eat healthier, reduce sprawl, and preserve our communities’ rural character, farmers’ markets across the globe are already making a difference.
What is even more exciting is how quickly this phenomenon has grown across Massachusetts. Massachusetts increased the number of organic farms from 129 in 2002 to 295 in 2007, and the state is first in New England for direct sales of farm products to consumers. And by buying more locally-produced goods, we are doing our part to preserve the agricultural traditions of Massachusetts. More than 80% of Massachusetts farms are family-owned, and over 95% of these farms fit the category of “small farms.” But this doesn’t just happen on its own – we, the people of Massachusetts, need to put our money where our mouths are to maintain the farms, our critical link to locally-produced food.