Farmers’ markets are especially popular during springtime. What’s better than being outdoors, enjoying the sunshine, and choosing quality, fresh foods? See how you, your family, and your community can benefit from purchasing locally grown foods this season.
1- It’s better for the environment: Farmers who sell their food locally eliminate the need for long-distance travel and excess packaging. Reports show that produce purchased at supermarkets travel 1,300 miles, on average, and could be sitting in storage for up to 14 days. While many fruits and vegetables need to be imported because they cannot be grown locally and are not in season, when you shop at a farmers’ market, you support the small business efforts that do not require large-scale transportation and packaging.
2- The food is fresher: At most farmers’ markets, you’re more likely to receive the freshest produce that’s been picked within the last 48 hours, since it hasn’t traveled far. However, for many urban farmers’ markets, it’s possible that the food has been shipped from a different region, if that vendor is distributing wholesale produce. Always check with your vendors to make sure.
3- They use more natural farming methods: Because farmers who operate independently and sell locally aren’t producing food on a national or global scale, their methods tend to be more grassroots without the need for GMOs, antibiotics, hormones, waxing, and gassing. However, just because you are buying from a farmers’ market doesn’t mean it’s 100% organic and free from pesticides. The Organic Materials Review Institute (OMRI) is a good resource to verify which methods are considered “organic” in production and processing.
4- It’s more personal: Concerned about where your food is coming from? Not sure what they use to grow your favorite Macintosh apples? At farmers’ markets, you have the opportunity to speak directly to the people who know best – the farmers! You can carry on a conversation and learn insider knowledge to bolster your confidence in your purchases.
*Again, it’s important to note that some farmers’ markets are simply buyers who resell wholesale produce that has been shipped from other countries. Before you shop at a local farmers’ market, be sure to do your research to see who the vendors are, and where they get their food. Better yet, you can ask yourself when you visit!
5- You’ll get more variety: Commercial produce standards typically don’t support variety. Only the varieties that can survive importing, shipping and handling tend to dominate the market. At many farmers’ markets, you can find heirloom varieties, which means that their seeds have been handed down for generations in a specific region, and haven’t been tampered with.
6- You help farmers stay in business: With large agribusiness dominating the global market, it can be hard for small farmers to keep up with the competition. Since 1935, there has been a loss of 5 million farms. Fortunately, when you shop locally, vendors have a much high profit margin than if they sold through a third-party vendor. The Economic Research Service, a publication group under the USDA, highlights important trends within the local farming business that explain how you directly impact your local economy by shopping local.
7- Your family gets in on the fun: Visiting a farmers’ market can be a family affair. You can bring your children and allow them to see the colorful arrangements of fruits and vegetables, chat with the vendors, and experience the sunshine outdoors.