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5 Reasons to Shop at the Farmers Market

First Time Farmers Market Shoppers You are in for a Treat.

Shopping at the farmers market is an environmentally friendly and fun way to buy fresh and delicious food. It is worth your time and money.

August is an ideal time to try shopping at your local farmers market. At this time of year, you are sure to find a good selection of delectable freshly picked fruits and vegetables that are in season where you live and all of the 8,600 plus farmers markets spread across the country are open, even those that close during cold and snowy months.

Perhaps you are thinking that you would love to be able to buy a vine-ripened tomato that actually tastes like a tomato but you are concerned that shopping at the farmers market will be too time-consuming and/or expensive.

In this post, I will attempt to convince you that it is worth your time and money to expand your food shopping horizons to include shopping at the farmers market.

Your Body Will Thank You

Intellectually, you and I know we need to eat fresh and nutritious food to stay healthy and help our bodies heal when we get sick or injured. Sadly, today’s food landscape makes it challenging to eat a healthy diet.

A major barrier to healthy eating is that humans have a predisposition to crave sugar, fat, and salt, which were rare in the diets of our early ancestors but are now available everywhere 24 hours a day.

Fortunately, for you and me, fresh fruits and vegetables are front and center at the farmers market making it easy to choose healthy food without the distractions found in a typical supermarket like huge pyramids of boxed soft drinks, aisles crammed with overly processed and junk foods, and the dreaded candy shelves at the checkout counter.

Empower yourself to eat a healthy diet by shopping at the farmers market.

Freshly Picked Produce Stays Fresh Longer

At the farmers market, you can buy the freshest fruits and vegetables available (outside of your own garden); sometimes harvested the same day you buy them. This means produce will stay fresher once you bring it home and properly store it, which reduces food waste and saves you money.

For example, if you purchase a bunch of freshly picked basil at the farmers market it will stay fresh in your refrigerator for a week or more and it may actually cost less than at the supermarket.

The basil you purchase at the supermarket has already been on the road for several days to a week, endured multiple handling sessions, and hung out in the produce section for an unknown number of days by the time you come along and purchase it. No wonder store bought basil often starts wilting and turning brown around the edges after just a few days in your refrigerator.

Think about this. In the past week, what food did you toss because it was past its prime or spoiled? When you chuck uneaten food into the garbage, you are wasting all the resources and people power that went into growing and harvesting it and throwing your money in the trash.

Buy Fruits and Vegetables Grown for Deliciousness versus Durability

From a fruit and vegetable deliciousness standpoint, supermarkets just cannot compete with the farmers market.

Fresh Ripe Peaches from the Farmers Market
Fresh Ripe Peaches from the Farmers Market

Farmers who sell directly to customers can focus their energy on growing delicious fruits and vegetables, whereas a supermarket must also be concerned with durability.

Supermarkets require fruits and vegetables that can withstand mechanized harvesting, shipping by the ton, grading for size and appearance, boxing and crating, and traveling long distances. Unfortunately, many durable produce items are not tasty.

A few immediately come to mind like tomatoes, strawberries, and peaches. You can probably think of others.

When I was a kid, we ate freshly picked delicious peaches all through the summer from a few peach trees my dad had planted in our backyard so I know what a fresh peach should taste like.

As an adult, after years of buying peaches at the supermarket that were usually mealy, bruised, tasteless, or all of the above, I finally decided to quit buying peaches and wasting my money.

Then one day a few years ago, I discovered a stall at the farmers market selling baseball-sized peaches that were juicy, tangy, and sweet and tasted like a peach should taste. Now, I buy peaches from the farmers market when they are in season.

Granted these peaches do cost more per pound than peaches at the supermarket but there is no comparison in freshness and taste. Do you ever splurge on lattes, specialty juices, or ice cream treats? Why not splurge on peaches.

Savor Locally Produced Food Products

In addition to fresh fruits and vegetables, many farmers markets also sell eggs, cheese, meat, bread, olive oil, nuts, and prepared foods made by local people often using ingredients they grew themselves.

Snack foods sold at the farmers market are not highly processed junk foods made to last indefinitely on store shelves. If you purchase a bag of tortilla chips or a package of candied almonds, chances are you will be able to recognize all the ingredients on the label.

Trying food products from the farmers market is fun, tasty, and helps support your local economy, not some faceless corporation.

Support Sustainable Agriculture

When you shop at the farmers market, you have an opportunity to actually meet and talk with the people who grew the food you are buying.

These farmers live and work in your community or region and they have a vested interest in practicing sustainable agriculture. They often grow a variety of seasonal crops suitable for the climate in which they farm, which is good for maintaining healthy soil and keeping pests down. Many of the farmers grow and sell USDA certified organic fruits and vegetables meaning they are grown without pesticides or herbicides and are GMO-free.

Fresh Ripe Organic Strawberries from the Farmers Market
Fresh Ripe Organic Strawberries from the Farmers Market

Food at the farmers market travels short distances reducing fossil fuel use and air pollution. Also, since it does not have to survive the supermarket durable food process, the food sold at farmers markets saves on water, energy, and resources.

When you shop at the farmers market, you are supporting local farmers so they can make a living and be good stewards of their land.

I hope that at least one of the above reasons for shopping at the farmers market appeals to you and you are ready to give it a try.

Tips for First Time Farmers Market Shoppers

You may already know when and where there is a farmers market near you. If not, type “farmers market” and the name of your “city” into your web browser.

Getting ready for your first trip to the farmers market is easy.

  • Grab your reusable shopping bags.
  • Make sure you have some cash (small bills are usually appreciated).
  • Bring your adventurous spirit along.

Imagine yourself strolling through the farmers market carrying your reusable shopping bags chock full of freshly picked and delicious fruits and vegetables, a loaf of freshly baked bread, and a jar of homemade spaghetti sauce. Now, off you go.

National Farmers Market Week is August 6-12, 2017 so some markets may be having special events or promotions making your first farmers market visit, even more, fun and interesting.

Featured Image at Top: National Farmers Market Week 2017 Logo – Image by USDA Agricultural Marketing Service

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Greening Your Vacation – Souvenirs and Shopping

We cannot shop our way to a sustainable world.

Free up your time for actual vacationing and reduce your environmental footprint by greening your souvenir and vacation shopping habits.

If you are like most people, you probably have between two to four weeks to go on vacation each year. That is not a lot of time for connecting with your family and friends, seeing new sights, revisiting favorite places, relaxing, and refreshing your spirit.

So, why would you or I spend our vacation time shopping?

I posit that consumerism is so entrenched in our society that we will use our limited and precious vacation time for shopping without really thinking about it.

Nowadays, even rural areas and national parks have gift shops and visitor centers so we can shop even while we are “getting away from it all.”

Besides using up our vacation time, buying at the American or Western level is using up the planet’s resources at a faster clip than Earth can renew them while wreaking environmental havoc on people and other living things.

After a recent trip to Oregon with two long-time friends, I decided to evaluate my souvenir and vacation shopping from that trip. Below is a synopsis of my findings. At the end of the post, you will have an opportunity to evaluate your own souvenir and vacation shopping habits.

My Souvenir and Vacation Shopping Evaluation

Interestingly, at least to me, it was non-souvenir shopping that tripped me up the most.

Souvenirs

Souvenirs Bought on Vacation

My ideal souvenir is a refrigerator magnet so I was on the lookout for one with a quilt on it at the Sisters outdoor quilt show. I did not find one, but I did spot and buy a lovely quilted postcard donated by a quilter for a Sisters High School scholarship fundraiser.

I found my souvenir refrigerator magnet in the Crater Lake National Park visitor center. It has a beautiful photo of the deep blue almost purple colored Crater Lake. Showing some restraint, I did not buy a Christmas tree ornament, jigsaw puzzle (I love puzzles), coffee mug, a book about Crater Lake, or a hat I eyed for a while as I stood in the checkout line.

Near the end of our trip, while we were walking through a Chinese garden in Portland, we came across a young woman playing a Chinese zither. Her music was captivating. I saw she had CD’s for sale and I snapped one up.

Lavender Farm

On a sweltering day in the upper 80s, my friends and I decided to visit a lavender farm. The couple who own the farm shared their knowledge about lavender freely and offered us ice-cold lemonade and melt-in-your-mouth shortbread cookies.

I was not interested in buying a lavender item in their small store, but I felt obligated somehow to buy something from these delightful people. Also influencing me was my desire to support small and local businesses. Why did I feel that just thanking them as we were leaving would be inadequate?

In the end, I purchased a small metal tin of tea with lavender justifying to myself that it is consumable.

Metal Tin with Tea and Lavender Bought on VacationThis is just one example of the millions of purchase transactions occurring at any given moment where the buyer does not really want and/or need the item but is purchasing it out of a sense of obligation either to the seller or to a person they intend to give it to.

Sigh.

Quilting, Book, and Cross-Stitch Stores

One of my friends is a quilter and the three of us like reading and cross-stitching so we often build browsing at quilting, book, and cross-stitch stores into our vacation plans.

In the two quilting stores we visited, I admired the fabrics, tools, and sample quilts with no desire to buy anything, whew.

Unfortunately, I began a book-buying binge in Sisters with the purchase of a used book at a library sale and a new book signed by a local author who was signing copies of her books in a bookstore. I purchased four used books in Corvallis and eight more in Portland.

Pile of 14 Books Bought on VacationFourteen books would not fit in my luggage so I ended up mailing the books to myself from a post office in Eugene before I boarded the train to come home.

I am a book lover so by not establishing a self-imposed limit on book purchases up front and then visiting multiple bookstores, I unintentionally set myself up for excessive book buying.

We visited two cross-stitch stores during our trip where I bought materials for two projects and a few embellishments (I could not resist the happy face buttons).

Materials forTwo Cross-Stitch Projects Bought on VacationThe weird thing is that I actually prefer finishing one cross-stitch project before buying materials and starting a new one. So, how did I end up with more projects? I think it was partly because, again, the store owners were friendly, helpful, and small business owners. Another and more interesting factor is that many cross-stitch enthusiasts, including my two friends, routinely have multiple projects going at the same time so even though no one told me I am a loser for doing one project at I time, I allowed this to influence me and purchased supplies for projects I am not ready to start yet.

Hmmm.

The Bottom Line

Evaluating my purchases and thinking about why I made them was an eye opening experience. The bottom line for me is that as a person trying to live happily with fewer possessions, I sure bought a lot of stuff on my vacation.

Consumerism is a powerful force that is difficult to overcome, even for a committed environmentalist like me.

Humans excel at justifying our actions and I even wrote a whole paragraph justifying all my purchases, like how I will donate the books to the library after I read them. I later deleted that paragraph. The thing is regardless of how much pleasure you or I might take in the stuff we buy on vacation (or any other time), we cannot shop our way to a sustainable world. Changing our relationship with stuff and shopping less is critical to maintaining a habitable planet now and in the future.

Prior to my next vacation, I intend to set shopping limits for myself before I even leave my house.

Now, it is your turn to evaluate your souvenir and vacation shopping habits.

Evaluate Your Souvenir and Vacation Shopping Habits

Take a moment to think back over your most recent vacation and ask yourself the following questions.

  1. What did you buy for yourself and why?
  2. Did you buy gifts for people back home and if so what and why?
  3. Was most of your shopping for souvenirs or non-souvenirs (e.g. art, books, wine)?
  4. How much time did you spend shopping?
  5. Did you spend more money than you felt comfortable spending?
  6. Are you wearing, using, or otherwise enjoying the items you bought?
  7. Which items, if any, ended up in the trash, back of a closet, or in a charity box?
  8. Did you eat and drink the edible products you purchased and brought home?
  9. Were your traveling companions enthusiastic about shopping?
  10. What actions, if any, do you plan to take to curtail souvenir and vacation shopping on your next trip?

Now, imagine spending your next vacation actually vacationing.

Featured Image at Top: Souvenir Store in New York, NY with an ATM Sign next to a Replica of the Statue of Liberty (hmmm) – Photo Credit iStock/anouchka

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