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More than 1,000 new farmers markets have opened nationwide since the U.S. last observed National Farmers Market Week , with much of the growth concentrated

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Alaska Leads Nation in Farmers Market Growth

fairbanks-fruit_4539.jpg
More than 1,000 new farmers markets have opened nationwide since the U.S. last observed National Farmers Market Week, with much of the growth concentrated in heartland states.

But the leading state for market growth was Alaska, which has 46 percent more markets than it did in 2010.

"It's been exponential and wonderful," says Amy Pettit, development specialist for Alaska's Division of Agriculture. "Like everywhere else, local food has really boomed here."

About half of Alaska's 35 farmers markets are located in the state's more populous south-central region, which encompasses Anchorage and the 100 miles surrounding it, but Pettit says markets are starting to crop up in remote communities.

Markets opened this year in Sitka, Kodiak, Wrangell, and Thorne Bay, Pettit says. While those towns are familiar to many Alaska tourists, the markets are aimed at local residents.

Pettit stresses that locally grown food is harder to find in Alaska than in the lower 48. Standard distribution channels funnel Alaskan produce to groceries elsewhere. "When they go to the grocery store, they're not seeing Alaskan-grown," Pettit says of shoppers in rural areas. Even eaters in urban centers are typically exposed to "somewhere between five to 15 Alaskan-grown products" at the supermarket, she adds.

"At the market, farmers have upward of 80 different vegetables," she says.

August is the height of Alaska's growing season: A Saturday market which opened in Pettit's hometown of Palmer two weeks ago is now featuring tomatoes, zucchini, strawberries, kohlrabi, cucumbers, basil, broccoli, and cauliflower.

Pettit feels the new market, which serves customers who previously traveled 50 miles to buy directly from farmers, bodes well for continued market growth in Alaska.

"We're really excited," she says.

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