Every Thursday I look forward to my college campus’s weekly farmer’s market. Compared to other farmer’s markets in the city it is relatively small, but it has more than enough to offer. It begins with a seasonal fruit stand full of pears and apples and ends with a stand of Amish gentlemen (they truly are gentlemen) showing off their vegetables and selling an array of baked goods. I usually stay away from the lard-loaded pastries, but nonetheless I appreciate the cutesy, home-made offerings. I do however restock my supply of fresh apples each week and usually pick up a featured in-season vegetable.
This week, along with the Fuji, McIntosh, and Jonagold apples I selected (yes, thankfully they let me pick-and-choose because when it comes to options, I’m not good an picking just one!), I picked up a large bundle of swiss chard. While I could never compare it and betray my dirt-soiled hands to the swiss chard that I helped to cultivate back home in my family’s garden, I have to admit this swiss chard is pretty impressive. The leaves are at least 2 feet in length, and they hold a deep reddish hue, just the way I like it! It’s sitting in my fridge right now, and I can’t wait to eat it.
For those who don’t have the means/space to have a backyard garden (currently=me), farmer’s markets are essential. Even if you have a personal garden (which I highly commend), farmer’s markets will almost always offer a unique or prized item that you may be missing, such as rutabagas or a selection of fruit from the fruit trees your backyard garden may be missing.
Farmer’s markets are beneficial in more ways than one. Take a look at some of the reasons to take advantage of these local farm stands:
- You can ensure you’re eating locally. Most, if not all, of the food sold at farmer’s markets is grown locally, and if you’re not sure, the farmer is usually right there so that you can ask from where the food is coming. Eating locally is greatly beneficial, particularly for the environment and in decreasing energy usage. Produce in supermarkets average 1,500 miles from farm to grocery store. That’s a lot of burning fuel being being wasted, and carbon dioxide being admitted into the air. When fresh food is being grown right nearby, there’s no need to purchase items that are speeding up global warming and ruining our Earth.
- You are helping to boost your local economy. Farmer’s markets put money into the hands of your surrounding neighbors, rather than dishing out money to large-scaled, commercial supermarkets whose rich owners often live across the country. With the money being given to those nearby, this means it can also be spent nearby, putting money back into the local area and stimulating its economy. Also, farmers who sell to the commercial market on average get to keep a mere 25 cents of every dollar’s worth of products sold, where as farmers selling at farmer’s markets get to keep every cent (with the exception of small renting fees).
- You can build relationships. By consistently purchasing foods from the same market, you are able to get to know those who are selling the products in which you consume. This enables you to ask questions, such as whether the produce is organic, and if not, what kind of pesticides are used. This also allows you to build a foundation of trust with those who are supplying your body with nourishment. For any items you are not familiar with, the grower is usually on hand to address any questions. Not sure how to make collard greens? Ask your cashier on your way out of the local commercial supermarket and most likely they’ll be clueless. Ask the owner of a farmer’s market stand, and they’ll not only be able to tell you what collard greens are, but will probably throw out a recipe as well. This is how the food industry used to work. We’ve gradually progressed to a commercial, impersonal system that allows for heavy pesticide and energy usage, salmonella, and other foul consequences. Building these types of personal relationships can help to build a national awareness of the environment.
- Think fresh. Produce sold at farmer’s markets is often picked the day of display. Cilantro that may sit for weeks in a grocery store can be bought just-picked at a farmer’s market. Also, baked goods are usually made only a couple days prior to the sell date, where as in the grocery store I have seen plenty of moldy/stale items.
- The food down right tastes better. Food at grocery stores is usually shipped from far distances, which
can mean up to two weeks of travel time. This means that the produce being shipped can’t be picked at its peak level of ripeness. Like I just previously mentioned, produce at farmer’s markets is oft en picked the day of, meaning it can be picked at its prime time, allowing for a fresh/sweet/brightly colored purchase. Plus, the longer an item sits, the more nutrients it loses. By being able to consumeproduce that was just picked, you are ensuring you are taking in the highest level of nutrients possible. Also, food from farmer’s markets doesn’t need to go through stage after stage of processing. Who knows what goes down in manufacturing plants, but often times it isn’t pretty, or clean. Instead, produce is simply picked and brought straight from the farm for display at the farmer’s markets. That little bit of dirt left on those farmer’s market carrots is pure proof that they were plucked straight from the ground, allowing you to bring some of that rich earthiness back home with you.
If you have the choice, don’t just go organic but go local, and the easiest way to do this is by taking advantage of farmer’s markets. They are beneficial for your 1) tastebuds 2) health 3)environment 4)local neighbors 5)economy 6)many other things left unsaid.
Check out this site to find potential farmer’s markets in your area.