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LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (KTHV)- The US Department of Agriculture reports that Arkansas is the 6th fastest growing state in the country to increase its number of farmers markets. Within the last decade, the number of farmers markets in the state has tripled from 28 to 97.

Lance Cummings says he has seen markets expand across Little Rock. "We've got such a network of small growers that you can attribute that to the number of markets that are sprouting up." He says his family has been working at the Little Rock Farmer's market for 26 years now. "Being here for so long you build relationships and you have customers that come back to you specifically because they like the taste of what you're growing."

Cummings says the concept of locally grown produce is to boost the local economy, to build a sense of community and to provide healthier foods to his customers. "We were raised on natural vegetables, on home grown vegetables, no preservatives, no additives," said Warnetta Bland, a farmer's market customer. "I think people are starting to go back to the basics."

Some local farmers offer produce that might not be sold at grocery stores. Cummings says he thinks the reason why they've gained popularity is because products are only picked when they're ripe. "I have vendors or farmers or gardeners that bring me stuff while I'm here that was just picked."

Local restaurant owner Jack Sunday runs The Root. He buys his produce from the Hillcrest Farmers Market."Whatever we can get at that time of year is what goes into our house salad," said Sundell. "We try to feature certain things that go on the salad that represent the season in Arkansas."

Cumming spends 75 percent of his food money on local vegetable, meat and dairy providers. "We really believe that local is a lifestyle, supporting your own community, making your neighborhood better, getting to know the people around you."

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