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.
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.
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
- 5 Must-See Films about Food, Health, and the Environment
- 5 Reasons to Try Community Supported Agriculture (CSA)
- A Healthy Diet is Good for You and the Planet
- Bringing Your Own Lunch to School or Work is Green
- Dine In – Cooking and Eating Meals at Home is Green
- Environmental Impact of Eating Meat
- Food Rules – Book Review
- Food Waste Reduction Challenge – Let’s Eat the Food We Buy
- Organic Food – What Does the USDA Organic Label Mean?
- People’s Grocery – Healthy Food for Everyone
- The Secret to Making Healthy Eating Easy
- The Sheer Ecstasy of being a Lunatic Farmer – Book Review
- Eat Well Guide (Directory of restaurants, farms, markets and other sources of local, sustainable food)
- Farmers Market Coalition
- Local Harvest (Directory of farmers markets, farms, and CSAs)
- USDA Local Food Directories: National Farmers Market Directory
- USDA 2015 Local Food Marketing Practices Survey Highlights