It’s finally Farmers Market time here in New England, and hopefully it is where you are too. If you haven’t shopped at a farmers market in the past, there’s no better time to start. Business is booming all across the country, with more than 8100 markets counted as of 2013. Supporting your local farmers market or the small farmer down the street has so many important benefits for you, your health, and the planet.
Check out the massive increase in farmers markets across the country since 1994 – That’s not just becasue they’re a trendy place to be spotted sporting a fabulous reusable tote bag…
All produce, meats or dairy products from a local farmers market taste better because they’re as fresh as you can get it. No question. Fruits and vegetables are allowed to ripen naturally, not gassed and waxed in a warehouse. Their just picked flavors absolutely can’t be duplicated, and although it might seem like a bummer to not find the huge international variety found at a grocery store, there is something so wonderful about eating only what is in season in your own backyard.
Eggs, meats, cheeses and dairy products are also from animals that have been raised humanely, not treated with hormones or antibiotics, and allowed to graze in the grass. Believe me – you will notice the difference in flavor.
OK, most farmers markets do sell some treats like ice cream or baked goods, but even those are made with all natural, usually organic, and always wholesome ingredients. Search all day, but you’ll never find anything that comes in a factory-sealed package, with a long list of ingredients, most of which you can’t pronounce. Unprocessed food, straight from the source and just as nature intended, is always so much better and healthier for you.
It’s New and Unusual
When you shop at a farmers market, don’t come with a recipe in mind. Instead, let the farmers plan your menu. Try something new, like garlic scapes, or heirloom tomatoes, purple carrots or cauliflower. Ever wondered what quail eggs taste like? Grab it when you see it at the market, and experiment a little. You may not see it again until next year. If you’re not sure what to do with it, just ask. Most farmers are also amazing cooks, and have lots of recipe ideas in their back pocket!
Most food available from a regular grocery store travels thousands of miles to get from farm, to warehouse, to store, to you. Of course that affects quality and flavor, but it also comes at a huge cost to the environment. Shopping at a farmers market saves fossil fuel, and reduces pollution, and waste from packaging. While conventional agriculture uses more resources and pollutes water, land, and air with toxic agricultural by-products, food at the farmers market is generally grown using methods that minimize the impact on the earth.
Local farmers markets are a lovely way to visit with friends and neighbors and connect with your community. They’re also a great way to get to know the people who grow your food, and learn more what you eat. Local farmers take great care in what they grow and pride in what they sell. It’s also nice to understand and appreciate the problems small farmers face from the weather or injury to a crop – really makes you appreciate why those prices are so high sometimes. Small farmers have a tough time when they have to compete with large supermarkets and food manufacturers, so get to know them, and support them so they have a fighting chance against today’s globalized economy.
Chances are you have a farmers market pretty close to home, but if you’re not sure where to find one, check Local Harvest for a listing near you. See you at the market!
Have you been to the farmers market yet? Are you a farmer? What are you growing?