A local farmers’ market, independent local produce stand or farm stand is becoming more common in many areas. This is a very good thing for all of us and for many reasons. If there is a produce stand or farm stand along your usual route, or a local farmers’ market in the area on your usual shopping day, you really owe it to yourself to stop in and check them out. You will be pleasantly surprised.
Farmers’ markets are the place to shop for a healthy whole food diet, too. You won’t find many labels to read. You won’t have to throw away much packaging when you get home. And farmers’ markets are wonderful places to discover new-to-you fruits and vegetables to add more variety to your kitchen.
Many reasons to love local farmers’ markets
*The food sold by local farmers’ markets and independents stands goes through fewer middle-men and is transported less than the food sold at supermarkets. This means prices are often substantially lower than at large supermarkets.
*Produce at farmers’ markets and stands is usually grown nearby and much fresher than the same produce from a supermarket. The fruits and vegetables are picked much closer to peak ripeness because they are not being shipped across the country. This means the flavors are more vibrant and intense. The textures are as they should be, not overly crisp or mealy or watery.
*Much more variety is available from local farmers’ markets and stands. While large supermarket chains buy most produce from large factory farms growing only one type of each crop, smaller farms are much more likely to grow a wider range of produce including heirloom varieties and less-common hybrids. The farmers’ market might have ten varieties of tomatoes and squash while the supermarket sells two or three kinds.
*More organic produce can be found at farmers’ markets than in the supermarket. And at the farmers’ market, prices of organic produce will often match or beat the prices of conventionally grown produce at the big store.
*Farmers’ markets give you a chance to find out where your food really comes from and how it is grown. The sellers at the farmers’ market are often either the actual growers or buy directly from the growers. You can learn the the location of the farm. You can ask how pests and weeds are controlled. You become more connected to the source of your food.
*Farmers’ markets contribute to the sustainability of our whole food supply. More of every dollar you spend at a farmers’ market goes to the farmer. The wider variety of crops grown by these small, local farmers provides an important safety net against drought, pests, diseases and the other problems thrown at us by nature.
*Produce from small, local farms also protects us from contaminated crops: a farmer growing a half acre of spinach and selling it locally is not going to sicken nearly as many people with e-coli as an industrial farm in California growing 400 acres of spinach and shipping it nation-wide. And smaller local farmers tend to care a lot more about their land and their crops, eliminating the issue of contamination before it even gets started.
*The local farmers’ market is a good place to get advice about food. The sellers are generally quite knowledgeable about their produce. The people that shop there are more interested in quality food and health than the average supermarket shopper and also know how to cook. This makes the farmers’ market a great place to ask how to prepare a newly discovered fruit or vegetable and what its flavor and texture are like.