Only nine states have more farmers markets than Missouri has. The United States Department of Agriculture counts 245 farmers markets in Missouri.   The state counted only 53 in 1997, and 131 seven years ago.

Administrator Ann Alonzo with the USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service says Missouri is part of the rapid national growth of farmers markets.  The Agency’s latest Farmers Market Directory lists 76 percent more of them than it listed in 2008. “They bring people and communities together…It’s really bridging urban and rural communities,” she says.

Almost one-third of Missouri’s farmers markets are in St. Louis and Kansas City.

She says many farmers markets cater to the increasing demand for organically-grown foods.  The  USDA says there are more than 220 USDA-certified organic operations in Missouri.  Nationally, there are more than 18,500 of them.

Alonzo says another increasing trend is farmers growing products that go directly to local groceries.  The USDA says about 150,000 farmers and ranchers nationally are selling their products to local retailers.  But she sees no indications that trend is limiting the growth and popularity of farmers markets.

AUDIO: Alonzo interview 10:27