USDA chartThe U.S. Department of Agriculture announced today that there are now 6,132 farmers markets in the country, up 16 percent from last year and a stunning 214 percent increase since 2000.

The press release contained some even more interesting numbers. While mild-weathered, agriculturally diverse California had by far the most farmers markets (580), New York was not far behind (461), and Nos. 3 and 4 were somewhat surprising: Illinois (286) and Michigan (271). And the rest of the Midwest is working on catching up: the top states for percentage growth in the number of markets from 2009 to 2010 were Missouri (77 percent), Minnesota (61), and Idaho and Michigan (both 60 percent).

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While less then a sixth of the markets, or 886, are open year-round, there are such four-season markets in 47 states and the District of Columbia.

Farmers marketThe Temescal Farmers Market in Oakland, Calif. is only a few years old. Photo: Bonnie PowellYou can find a market near you via the Eat Well Guide, LocalHarvest, or USDA. And if there isn’t one? The USDA has guides for how to start a farmers market, for the truly ambitious. Lazier folks can just join me in my wok-on-the-wild-side challenge in honor of National Farmers Market Week this week.

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Because while these numbers are encouraging, direct-to-consumer food sales — which include not only farmers markets, but also farm stands and U-pick operations — were only 0.4 percent of the total food economy last year. Local food has a long way to go before Safeway feels any pain.