Farmer’s markets aren’t always the cheapest option available — organic food can be pretty expensive — but that matters little to me when measured against the benefits they offer. I’m talking healthier, more delicious food that is both eco-friendly and provides support to the local economy. What could beat that? Here are the reasons why you should shop at farmer’s markets:
Local Food: Better for Your Body and the Environment
Much of the produce we buy in supermarkets is farmed and shipped from places like California. It has to travel thousands of miles between where it is harvested and the outlet from which it’s to be sold.
And when we buy from big chain grocery stores, we endorse several unfavorable measures that hurt the food, our bodies and the Earth:
- Large-scale industrial agriculture requires the use of pesticides and preservatives — which harm the body over time — as well as large processing equipment that increases our carbon footprint.
- The produce is picked before it is fully ripened so it can survive the lengthy shipping time. The food ages and loses many of its beneficial nutrients while in transit, sometimes sitting for a week or more. By the time it gets to us, it tastes bland and goes bad in just a few days.
Local produce suffers from none of these problems.
- It’s grown organically with no synthetic pesticides or preservatives, and is usually picked at peak ripeness within 24 hours of being brought to market.
- It only has to travel a few miles to get there, reducing carbon emissions and environmental impact overall. Also, your money directly supports the preservation of farms and greenspaces in your area.
Another thing to consider — when you buy locally, you buy seasonally. Eating food out of season desensitizes us to the joy of our favorite fruits and veggies.
Strawberries come into season in June, corn in August and apples in September. Of course, all of these things are available year-round because we can truck them in from anywhere in the world. But then we take them for granted.
There’s no anticipation, no reason to get excited about a food when you can have it anytime. But make yourself go nine months without your favorite fruit or vegetable and you can bet that your first bite of the season is going to taste nothing short of exquisite. So which do you think is better, a full year of just okay tastes or three months of maximum food appreciation?
It Stimulates Your Local Economy and Fosters Community
Local economies depend on the flow of money in order to survive. Do you spend a lot at big box stores or through online retailers? You could be depriving your town of its lifeblood. Dollars spent at large chain stores and on the internet rarely get reinvested into the community from which they came. Instead that money goes elsewhere, toward vast overhead costs or into corporate bank accounts.
Spend your money locally and double its effectiveness in stimulating your local economy. Also, small business owners are 60 percent more likely to reinvest earnings into their community, as they use the services of other businesses — like attorneys and printers — in the area.
Another advantage is the opportunity to know where your food is coming from, how it’s handled, and the fellow community members who make it all possible. Strike up a conversation with a vendor! They’ll be happy to answer any questions you might have.
Here Are Few Tips on How to Shop at a Farmer’s Market
Not sure how to approach shopping at your local market? These tips will help you navigate the stands and feel prepared to talk with vendors:
- Come prepared! That means bring cash. Of course, you’ll find some merchants who accept cards but cash makes it easier on them AND forces you to limit your spending. Bring your own reusable grocery bags too! I usually only bring $15 and that’s more than enough for me to stock up on fresh season fruit and veggies that will last me through the week. Just yesterday, I spent $9 for a sack of potatoes, 3 lemons, a bag of spinach, some onions and a pound of mushrooms.
- Find the right time of day for you. Want to explore everything that’s available? Go early. The crowds will be thicker, but that’s because the selections are more fresh and varied. Looking for the best deals? Arrive an hour or two before closing. Vendors prefer to sell everything they bring for the day, so some will offer discounts just so they can get rid of it.
- Try new things and have fun! Take this opportunity to broaden your horizons. I promise, there’ll be no shortage of weird and wonderful things to try. Some places even display art or host live performances, so get out there and find out what your local market has to offer!
My personal philosophy: Every dollar you spend is like a vote. It sends a message saying, ‘I support this. I want this to continue existing.’ The more you spend, the clearer that message becomes.
Take care of your body, your town, and your environment. Buy local every chance you get. Find out what farmer’s markets are near you at Local Harvest.