It seems like farmers markets are popping up everywhere these days — and with good reason. Customers are demanding answers about where their food came from and how it was grown as the local food movement continues to pick up steam across the country.
So why should you support your local farmers market? You’ll be presented with healthy food, the opportunity to learn, a social experience, a chance at community building, and more. Let’s take a look at a few of the reasons why a visit to your local farmers market should be at the top of your to-do list.
1. Your Health Will Thank You
Lack of access to fresh, healthy food is one of the major issues plaguing America today. Unfortunately, junk food and packaged food is often easier to come by, cheaper, and more convenient, especially for low-income families and minorities. According to Bradley University, “… unhealthy eating habits associated with living in food deserts may lead to the development of chronic health conditions.”
With food deserts threatening at-risk populations, the presence of farmers markets is all the more important. Farmers markets provide fresh, healthy food, often at a good price, and many offer support for families on food stamps or other low-income services.
2. It’s Better for the Environment
The environmental impact of food is massive. When it’s done right, food production can help heal the environment. When it’s done wrong, it creates near irreversible damage. Monocrop farming, for example, has significantly decreased the variety of food available and thereby impacted nutrition in a big way.
“Over the last five decades, human diets around the world have grown ever more similar – by a global average of 36 percent – and the trend shows no signs of slowing, with major consequences for human nutrition and global food security,” according to Medical News Today.
Growing and eating food that’s grown close to where you live is a sure way to start fixing this problem. Practicing environmentally conscious eating begins with eating seasonally and reducing food miles. When you eat seasonally and eat foods that are native to your area, you create more demand for these products and start to join the march toward diversification.
3. It’s Fun
One of the best parts about shopping at the farmers market is that it’s fun! Going down to the market on a crisp fall day and starting off my shopping trip with a local coffee and breakfast bite is one of my favorite things in the world.
Market shopping provides you with a chance to see friends, meet local farmers, hear live music, and enjoy a lively atmosphere. What’s not to love?
The collective atmosphere of a farmers market is the same reason so many people value community gardens — these environments tend to bring people together in a special kind of way.
4. You’ll Be Challenged
While fun and enjoyable, there’s no point in denying that shopping at a farmers market can be challenging. Perhaps it’s hot out, there are long lines at all the vendor booths you want to visit, or you can’t seem to find what you want among the rows of brightly colored vegetables. Generally, though, the challenges are outweighed by the positive aspects of the market.
One of the challenges, which can often turn into a joy, is finding ways to use the farmers market produce. Some of it might be strange or intimidating. What the heck do you do with kohlrabi? What about all these beans still in their pods?
It can be difficult to navigate the market and walk away feeling confident about what you purchased and what you’re going to do with it. That’s where the learning comes in, which is an opportunity for growth. Challenge can be a good thing.
5. You’ll Learn Something
Learning is something that should happen at a farmer’s market, especially if you’re a newcomer. Strange produce and unfamiliar products are great conversation starters. Ask a farmer what her favorite way to prepare a certain vegetable is. Ask fellow customers which vendors are their favorites and for what reasons. Ask a meat vendor to tell you how her animals were raised.
Generally, farmers and vendors are happy to talk and answer your questions. Farmers markets are all about community because the local food movement is rooted in relationships and values. Don’t be afraid to ask questions at the market and tap into the huge resource that is the people who are actually growing the food you eat!
6. It’s Good for Your Community
Perhaps above all, farmers markets are great for community building. Local communities can be strengthened and brought together by the presence of people gathered around a topic they care about. In this case, that topic is local, fresh, healthy, often organic food.
Keeping money in the hands of people in your community is good for the local economy and is a form of voting with your fork. Farmers markets are “local” at its finest.
7. The Food Tastes Better
Once you try fresh produce from the farmers market, it’s unlikely you’ll ever want to go back to eating grocery store goods. If you need another reason to shop local, do it for your tastebuds.
Buying from the farmers market forces you to eat seasonally, and seasonal produce is fresher and tastes better than something that’s not in season. Anyone who has eaten a tomato during January knows this to be true.
There are many great reasons to support your local farmers market. The next time you get ready to go to the grocery store, reconsider and see what you can grab for your local market instead. You’ll likely get hooked and want to go back every week!