RICHMOND—Farmers’ markets continue to crop up throughout Virginia, with the number of markets growing by almost 195 percent since 2005. In the most recent Census of Agriculture, more than 3,500 Virginia farm operators reported selling directly to consumers. The census also reported that Virginia has nearly 250 farmers’ markets, compared to 85 in 2005. “It is very common to see new farmers’ markets open every year,” said Sandra J. Adams, commissioner of the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. “They have become a community gathering place where friends and neighbors meet to shop, taste, socialize and buy fresh products for the week.” The census also reported that Virginians spent more than $41 million in-state on fresh, local fruits, vegetables and other farm products, and that the commonwealth ranked 10th nationwide for direct farm-to-consumer sales. Those sales include not only farmers’ markets but also on-farm stands, pick-your-own farms and direct sales to restaurants. “The local food movement is responsible for much of the growth in farmers’ markets in Virginia and across the country,” said Tony Banks, a commodity marketing specialist for Virginia Farm Bureau Federation. “Markets’ and farmers’ offerings have evolved over the past decade or so in response to consumer needs. Farmers’ markets are modernizing their facilities and amenities to make themselves convenient for both farmers and shoppers.” There are more than 8,400 farmers’ markets in the current U.S. Department of Agriculture National Farmers Market Directory. Media: Contact Banks at 804-290-1114.