Many farmers markets will open this weekend across Iowa and a new survey shows they’re more popular than ever. A report from the Iowa Department of Agriculture says sales climbed from $20 million in 2004 to more than $38 million last year. State Horticulturalist Mike Bevins says the average consumer in the survey claims to visit a market 11 times in a season.

“We have roughly a 22 week season in Iowa, so to visit a market 11 times shows an extreme loyalty to farmers markets,” Bevins said. “I think that’s due to our ag background in Iowa. We are very closely related to our ag background here and there’s a very loyal following for the farmers markets.” The total number of farmers markets in Iowa has grown 75% over the past 15 years. Bevins attributes the growth to more interest in locally produced food.

But he says more fruit and vegetable producers will be needed for markets to continue expanding. “I don’t know of any markets…that aren’t looking for more fruit and vegetable growers – that being the number one product bought at farmers markets. Pretty much all the markets would like to have more local growers, but we just don’t have enough local growers to go around at the moment,” Bevins said. At last count, Iowa had more than 220 farmers markets. They drew around 99,000 customers a week during the 2009 season.

See more info on farmers markets in Iowa here: