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Governor declares Arkansas Farmers Market Week

Daniel Breen
Arkansas Agriculture Secretary Wes Ward (center) and supporters of the St. Joseph Center in North Little Rock gather to celebrate Gov. Asa Hutchinson's proclamation of Arkansas Farmers Market Week.

Warmer weather in central Arkansas signals the return of farmers markets selling locally grown produce and food products.

Officials with the Arkansas Department of Agriculture on Tuesday celebrated Gov. Asa Hutchinson’s proclamation of Arkansas Farmers Market Week, marking the contributions made by farmers markets and the agriculture industry to the state’s economy.

Arkansas Agriculture Secretary Wes Ward said farmers markets make locally-grown produce and food products more accessible to those who live in more urban areas of the state.

“We continue to see these farmers markets grow and be successful, which is great for our local producers and our industry as a whole. It helps to give local, healthy food options, and [it’s] just a great way to celebrate agriculture and farmers markets throughout the State of Arkansas,” Ward said.

Tuesday’s proclamation took place at the St. Joseph Center in North Little Rock, which operates a market selling its own food and goods made on-site. Originally founded as an orphanage in 1908, the center now operates a 63-acre farm and offers classes and workshops on sustainable farming practices.

The center’s Executive Director Sandy DeCoursey says markets like hers make healthy food more accessible, and give the public a better understanding of their food’s origins.

“Food accessibility has always been very important. It’s our one universal component, everybody has to eat, and health and nutrition are something that also are very important and we’d like to emphasize caring stewardship of the earth,” DeCoursey said. “So those coming together help us teach people how to grow things and learn about where their food’s grown, how it’s grown, and how they can better utilize that to serve their needs in nutrition.”

DeCoursey says the market also accepts EBT cards, which recipients of SNAP, or food stamps, can use to buy produce. Arkansas’ agriculture industry represents a $19 billion contribution to the state’s economy each year.