Nebraska Director of Agriculture Merlyn Carlson praised the success of a new Seniors Farmers Market Nutrition Pilot Program.

The Nebraska Department of Agriculture (NDA) was awarded a $200,000 grant in January to help eligible senior citizens purchase fresh produce from their local farmers markets. Forty-six Nebraska farmers markets and nearly 100 senior centers are participating in the new program.

"The Seniors Farmers Market Program is just one exciting example of the benefits producers and consumers can gain at farmers markets," Carlson said.

Everyone is reminded that all coupons must be redeemed by Sept. 30.

The number of farmers markets in Nebraska has grown in recent years, with 46 established in the state this year. Nationally, the number has grown to 2,863 this year, compared to U.S. Department of Agriculture's initial count of 1,755 in 1994. Sales generated by farmers markets have been estimated to exceed $1 billion a year, with most of the money going directly to small family farmers.

"Consumers benefit from the freshness, quality and wide selection of locally grown products," Carlson added. "Meeting and interacting with the farmer who grows the food also develops in consumers a special bond of trust in the integrity and accountability of our growers.

"It is a win-win situation," Carlson added, "because they also help producers increase their markets for locally-grown fruits and vegetables."

An index of Nebraska's farmers markets is listed in the "Guide To Nebraska Fresh Produce" available through the Nebraska Department of Agriculture. Copies can be requested by calling (800) 422-6692. The guide also is available on the department's new web page, at, under the "publications" icon.

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