(July 25) New Yorkers and Philadelphians may scratch their heads when they turn on their televisions this summer.

Farmer Bill hawking tomatoes and blueberries from the back of his pickup — in the shadow of the Empire State Building? Ma and Pa dealing peaches at the foot of the Rocky steps?

A new ad funded by New Jersey’s Jersey Fresh marketing program may not use that precise imagery, but it is bringing the country and its fresh produce to the city.

The Garden State and its growers hope to take advantage of a nationwide boom in a very old method of buying and selling fresh produce: farmers markets, roadside produce stands and other venues that let farmers sell with-out a middleman and let consumers eat the freshest fruits and vegetables they can find.

“Farmers markets are definitely becoming more popular in the U.S.,” said Nichole Pritchett, a marketing spe-cialist for the U.S. Department of Agriculture. “I think the reason is that consumers over the years have become more and more interested in where their food comes from, how it’s grown — things they can ask the farmers directly at markets.”

When the USDA began documenting the number of farmers markets in the country, in 1994, there were 1,755. By 2002, there were more than 3,100, and Pritchett said she and her colleagues hear about new ones opening all the time.

In New Jersey alone, the number of markets has grown from 20 in 2001 to 50 this year, said Al Murray, director of markets for the New Jersey Department of Agriculture, Trenton, which administers Jersey Fresh.

Other reasons for the boom? Consumers have become more interested in freshness — most farmers sell pro-duce they just picked that morning, Pritchett said. Also, more people are becoming active in supporting their local communities, which often include farmers. What’s good for the farm industry is good for them.