Go local: 5 reasons to shop at your area’s farmers’ marketPosted: May 14, 2014 | |
From train station parking lots to urban city parks to suburban strip mall blacktops, farm-fresh food is everywhere. Raspberries are no longer a novelty most common in your neighbor’s backyard. And rarely do you ever need to pull over at the “Eggs 4 Sale” sign if you want a carton of local eggs.
Farmers’ markets are popping up everywhere, and with them come a haul of local eggs, cheese, and veggies serving communities all over. In fact, according to the USDA, farmers’ markets are one of the fastest growing segments of agriculture, with the latest Census of Agriculture showing a 40% increase in the number and concentration throughout the U.S. since 2008.
Why is this important? Since these markets are built from farmers all around the surrounding area, your food will be traveling far fewer miles than most items at the supermarket. This means fresher, more flavorful ingredients for you, with often more vitamins in tact, too. Need more motivation to make a trip to your local farmers’ market? Check out the USDA Farmers Market Search to locate a farmer’s market in your area. Then read on for five more reasons you should go local.
5 reasons to take a trip to the Farmers’ markets:
- From chore to chill: Unlike the drudgery of shopping at a crowded supermarket, wandering around at a farmers’ market can be a relaxing experience. As you stroll, you are drawn in to each stall with its vibrant colors, smells, and tables that overflow with fresh, colorful items. This turns typical grocery shopping under artificial fluorescent lighting into a sunny experience for all the senses.
- Going social: Farmers’ markets often include not just carrots and kale, but music, entertainment, and other activities, too. This allows you to check out what else is going on in your local community and connect with others who are nearby. Consider striking up a conversation with that person in front of you, or perhaps swapping a recipe with the other person touting home a basket of broccoli. These types of interaction can make the experience both fun and memorable.
- Farmer knows best – knowledge from the source: At a grocery store, if you pick up an apple, its grower could likely live 1,000s of miles away. At a farmers’ market, however, you’ll get face-to-face contact with those who planted, picked, and sold you the fruit right within your hands. Have questions on how it was grown? Or maybe you’d like to know more about the flavor discrepancies of multiple varieties being offered. Regardless of where your curious mind might take you, farmers are generally glad to share their knowledge about the plants they grow. Plus, they’ll be onsite for you to pick their brain on how to prepare the items you’ve selected for when you get home.
- The opportunity to be bold & try something new: Many farmers’ markets offer fruits and vegetables that are not typically found in supermarkets, providing a variety that can be both tasty and nutritious. Spring boasts unique items like ramps, kohlrabi, and fava beans, all of which farmers can inform you on how to select the best quality, storage techniques, etc.
- Direct support to the hand that feeds you: Shopping at farmers’ markets supports your local farmers and keeps the money you spend closer to your neighborhood. When you purchase food at a farmers’ market, the money you spend goes directly to the farmer, rather than through a middleman that will reap some of the reward. It also forms a relationship between farmer and consumer. The hand that pulled the potato, or fed the chicken, is the hand of the farmer who answers your questions, accepts your payment and provides a handshake. That handshake is his or her seal of approval that the food that was just purchased is fresh, clean and safe. This kind of relationship and guarantee of quality food is one you can’t get unless shopping locally.
Next time you are at a farmers’ market, take the time to walk around and let the sights and smells of the offerings guide you. Use your shopping list as a template. It could say something like, “vegetables for roasting” or “fruits to grill on Sunday”. This leaves flexibility for whatever the market has to offer that week and is a true lesson in cooking off the land. The idea is to find inspiration from the sights and smells around you. Start there and you’ll be guaranteed a tasty, seasonal meal every time.
If you need a little inspiration, check out this Farmers’ Market Pizza, with spring asparagus, scallions, and goat cheese!
Trish Ryan is the founder of Time for Dinner, a service designed to simplify the meal planning process and help you enjoy dinner with your family.
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