Farmers markets near you, a USDA tool

Story highlights

  • There are now more than 8,260 farmers markets in the U.S., according to the USDA, increasing by 180% from 2006 to 2014
  • Farmers markets are concentrated in the eastern half of the U.S. and along the West Coast
  • Food at farmers markets isn't necessarily healthier -- the benefits come from engaging with farmers and the community
  • Living closer to farmers markets is associated with lower child and adolescent obesity rates

(CNN)If you're craving fresh-baked bread, sweet strawberry jam, or the scent of seasonal flowers, you're in luck. It's now easier than ever to find your local farmers market, thanks to an online search tool from the USDA.

The searchable farmers market directory -- complete with an interactive map -- lets users dig up information on local food sources by filtering through more than 8,260 farmers markets by zip code, types of payment accepted, and even the products sold at the market.
    But which farmers markets make the cut? The USDA requires that markets have two or more farm vendors selling their goods in the same, consistent location.
    By these standards, the USDA reports that the number of farmers markets is on the rise, increasing by 180% from 2006 to 2014. The USDA credits this increase to hundreds of millions dollars in investments in these local food hubs.
    And good news for those on government assistance: a growing number of farmers markets are also accepting EBT cards, or food stamps.
    "Farmers markets engage people in food so they enjoy what they're eating more," said Alice Ammerman, a professor of nutrition in the UNC Chapel Hill Gillings School of Global Public Health, and Director of the Center for Health Promotion and Disease Prevention.