Reasons to Shop at and Support Your Local Farmers Market
What Is a Farmers Market?
A farmers' market is a physical retail marketplace designed to sell foods directly from farmers to consumers. Farmers' markets occur in a variety of environments, they can be indoors or outdoors. And they consist of booths, tables, and stands. At these booths, farmers sell fruits, vegetables, meats, cheeses, and even prepared foods and beverages. Farmers' markets are found all over the world, each reflecting their own unique culture and economy. The size of the market can vary from a few stalls to as large as several city blocks. As a result of the inherent nature of farmers’ markets, they tend to be less rigidly regulated than retail produce shops.
The History of the Farmers Market
The current concept of a farmers' market is comparable to historical concepts. Similar forms of today's farmers’ markets existed prior to the Industrial Age. These markets typically made up only part of broader markets where food, supplies, and other goods all gathered to retail their wares. Trading posts marked a fundamental shift in retailing goods and services. Retailers began to sell others’ products more than their own. This trend of selling others’ products continued to develop and progress as general stores and grocery stores strived to optimize the consumer experience.
As a result of optimizing the consumer experience, food production today relies heavily on cheap and fast transportation. Resulting in an ever-dwindling product selection and lack of variety at most major retailers. Fortunately, transport costs and product delays cannot be completely eliminated. The reemergence of the local farmer market is closely related to industrial product delays, distance strained suppliers, and consumers strong preference for local variety. Starting in the mid-2000s, consumer demand for fresher foods and an increased variety of products has led to the growth of local farmers’ markets.
The Best Foods Found at a Farmers Market
Fresh, local honey is both healthy and delicious, many beekeepers now combine their honey with dozens of different flavors. The flavors are created by either mixing in a flavor or determined by what type of pollen the bees have used to make the honey. Before you purchase any honey, ensure that you ask the vendor where the honey comes from. Most will be from local bees, but some try to sneak by with store-bought honey.
Farm fresh eggs are simply healthier when compared to store-bought eggs. Eggs fresh from the farm contain less cholesterol and saturated fat with more vitamins A, E, and D, along with omega-3 fatty acids and beta-carotene. An added bonus is that farm fresh eggs do not need to be refrigerated like store-bought eggs.
Grass-fed beef tastes better and is amazing for your body. The meat from free-roaming cattle and buffalo is naturally lower in fat and calories compared to its contained counterparts. Additionally, grass-fed meat is shown to be higher in omega-3 fatty acids, which has been shown to help boost brain power and prevent heart disease.
Store-bought grapes may be larger and cheaper than the ones found at farmers' markets, but their size doesn't mean anything when it comes to taste. The smaller, and occasionally seeded, concord grapes definitely have a lot more flavorful compared to the store bought variant. This rich flavor makes them great for canning jams or using in desserts.
Store-bought tomatoes aren't even in the same league as farm-raised varieties found at farmers' markets. Besides the great taste of farm fresh tomatoes, local farmers’ markets also provide a more diverse selection of tomatoes. They're rich in vitamin C and lycopene, two nutrients your body needs to function.
Most people believe that carrots are orange, and they are only partly correct. Carrots also come in a variety of other colors, too. You usually won't find rainbow-colored carrots in most grocery stores, but you will at many farmer's markets. Many of these colorful carrots, especially the purple ones, are significantly higher in beta-carotene and other antioxidants.
Most berries that you find at your local grocer have been imported from far away lands like Canada, Mexico, and possibly Poland. Garden fresh berries will taste far superior when compared to their grocery sold siblings.
Asparagus is a delicious, vitamin-packed, and a great addition to any meal. Unfortunately, most asparagus sold in US stores is shipped in from Peru and the USDA requires all imported asparagus to be sprayed with a pesticide known as methyl bromide, a neurotoxin suspected to cause cancer.
Peaches taste delicious in the summer, but again most of them are imported and are treated with a variety of pesticides. According to the Environmental Working Group, with more chemicals than any other fruit.
There's nothing quite like a loaf of freshly baked bread. Farmers' markets often have vendors that sell everything from freshly-baked baguettes to gluten-free hamburger buns.
Few stores sell good mushrooms and most usually lack any variety. But many farmers' markets will have as many oysters, morels, shiitakes, and lion's manes as your taste buds could ever imagine handling.
Rhubarb is one of the vegetables that isn't a common plant for the garden, and so it’s not one that is widely sold in most grocery stores. When in season, rhubarb can be found at the majority of farmers’ markets.
Top 8 Reasons for Supporting your Local Farmers’ Market
Taste Real Flavors
The fruits and vegetables you buy at the farmers market are the freshest and tastiest available. Fruits are allowed to ripen fully in the field and are brought directly to you. Avoiding long-distance shipping, gassing that simulates the ripening process, and no sitting around waiting to be bought.
Enjoy the Season
The food you buy at the farmers market is always seasonal. Shopping and cooking from the farmers market will help to reconnect you with the cycles of nature in your region. As you look forward to asparagus in spring, savor sweet corn in summer, or pumpkins in autumn, you reconnect with the earth, the weather, and even the turning of the year.
Support Family Farmers
Family farmers need your support. With large agribusiness dominating food production in the U.S. small family farms have a hard time competing in the food marketplace. Buying directly from farmers provides them with a better return on their produce and gives them a fighting chance in today’s globalized economy.
Protect the Environment
Food in the U.S. travels an average of 1,500 miles to get to your plate. All this shipping uses large amounts of carbon-heavy energies, contributes to pollution, and creates trash with all that extra packaging. Large-scale conventional agriculture uses more resources than sustainable agriculture and pollutes water, land, and air with toxic agricultural by-products. Food at the farmers market is transported shorter distances and is generally grown using methods that minimize the impact on the earth.
Much of the food found in a grocery store is highly processed and grown using pesticides, hormones, antibiotics, and genetic modification. Some of it has been irradiated, waxed, or gassed in transit. These practices have negative effects on human health. In contrast, most food found at the farmers market is minimally processed. With many of the farmers going to great lengths to grow the most nutritious produce possible. By using sustainable techniques such as picking produce right before the market, and growing heirloom varieties.
Discover the Spice of Life: Variety
At the farmers market, you will find an amazing variety of products that you normally would not see at your average supermarket. Such as; red carrots, a rainbow of heirloom tomatoes, purple cauliflower, stinging nettles, watermelon radishes, green garlic, quail eggs, mushrooms, and much more.
Promote Humane Treatment of Animals
At the farmers market, you can find meats, eggs, and cheeses from animals that have been raised without hormones or antibiotics. All of which have also grazed on green grass and eaten natural diets. With none of them having to be cramped in the unnatural living conditions of feedlots and cages that are typical for animal agriculture.
Know Where Your Food Comes From
A trip to a farmers market is one of the best ways to connect with where your food comes from. Meeting and talking to farmers is a great opportunity to learn more about how and where food is produced.
The Importance of Supporting Local Farmers
Farmers' markets offer farmers increased profit over selling to wholesalers, food processors, or large grocery firms. By selling directly to consumers, produce needs less transport, less handling, less refrigeration, and less time in storage. By selling in an outdoor market, the cost of land, buildings, lighting, and air-conditioning is reduced or completely eliminated. Farmers may also retain profit on produce not sold to consumers, by selling the excess to canneries and other food-processing firms. At the market, farmers can retain the full value of their product instead of only a processor's wholesale price for the entire lot.
Currently, the best way to locate your local farmers market is by using the USDA’s farmers market directory. Farmers markets have been around for generations, are you ready to help your local farmers and to truly taste what food should taste like? If you are, then locate your nearest farmers market and give it a try.