Have you crossed your Local Farmers’ Market off your summer bucket-list? Make the most of the end of summer while you still can! Nothing says summer better than fresh and flavorful Fruits and Veggies from the Farmers Market!
Summer is the perfect time of year to take advantage of the delectable, healthy food available at Farmers Markets near your home. Many fresh fruits and vegetables are now at their peak of freshness and flavor, but by the time they reach supermarkets and groceries, that may no longer be the case. By shopping for these items at farmers markets instead, you never have to compromise on quality or taste, nor do you have to spend an arm and a leg to feed your family well. At the farmers market, you can be confident you are getting affordable foods that are of the finest quality, best taste, and loaded with healthy nutrients in addition to supporting your local economy.
Here are 14 compelling reasons to make farmers markets your summer destination of choice for fresh produce (Cuesa.org, 2017; Snyder, K. October 11, 2012; Williams, M. R., April 12, 2013).
1. Produce Straight From the Farm
Food is stacked in eco-friendly wooden crates and delivered to the market straight from the farm, minus any long distance shipping during which quality can be compromised. In contrast, produce at a grocery store or supermarket can be several days old, or even older. While the trucks to transport them have refrigeration, long distance shipping is not conducive to maintaining freshness. Furthermore, at a farmers market, the chance of these foods still sitting in storage for days or weeks before even being transported and delivered is nonexistent. Much more often than not, farmers market produce is picked by the stand’s owner the same day consumers can buy it at the market. So the fruits and vegetables you find at a farmers market are as fresh as they can possibly be.
2. Seasonal Foods
Unlike supermarkets, which are likely to offer a wide variety of fruits and vegetables, but some may be of mediocre quality if it is not their optimal season, at farmers markets everything you get is seasonal. Most fruits and vegetables sold at farmers markets are picked at their peak of ripeness. This is the time when their natural sugars are at their peak, so the fruit or vegetable not only tastes better but provides the optimum level of nutrients. Their vivid color is not only a feast for the eyes but a reliable indication that these items are being offered exactly when nature intends for them to be eaten. It is a known fact that foods that are not eaten in a timely manner lose much of their original nutritional value. Food subjected to lengthy long distance travel or prolonged sitting around in warehouses or on grocery shelves inevitably suffers nutritionally. But when you buy your fresh fruits and vegetables at your local farmers market, no worries with the optimal nutrition that only farm to table freshness can provide. Furthermore, according to many nutritionists, eating foods that are in season is better for your health. Even though modern refrigerated shipping makes it possible to eat most fruits and vegetables year-round, it still makes sense to consume lighter plant foods in the summer and heartier ones like winter squash and parsnips in the cooler fall and winter months.
3. Supporting Small Local Family Farms
By shopping at farmers markets, you are doing a service to your local community by helping to support small family farms that would be otherwise forced out of business competing against major vendors. In addition, most of the produce at farmers markets is grown within 100 miles of the market. So by purchasing fruits and vegetables at a farmers market near your home, you are serving your community. These purchases help provide local family farms with the necessary capital to stay in business and thereby continue to offer consumers like yourself a viable alternative to mass-produced foods.
4. Ample Selection of Organic Food Products
Much has been written on the purported health benefits of organically grown food. While there is no clear evidence that organically grown foods are superior to conventionally grown foods from a nutrition standpoint, there are other valid reasons why including them in your diet might be a good idea. These include concerns about pesticides, food additives, and environmental pollution. Another area of concern is conserving water and protecting the quality of the soil. Many people are confused about what exactly organically grown food is. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the definition of organically grown food is simply “food grown and processed using no synthetic fertilizers or pesticides.” A food can be labeled “organic” but still contain pesticides from natural sources (Mayo Clinic, April 18, 2017) On the other hand, there are strict standards which must be adhered to before any food product can be labeled organic. In fact, a government approved certifier is required to inspect the farm to make sure all of the required conditions are met. Many of the products sold at local farmers markets meet these standards and are labeled accordingly, so you know exactly what you are getting. The farmers also probably use non-modified seeds, which is better for the soil. Meanwhile, you, as the consumer, have the added reassurance that no synthetic pesticides, fungicides, or other unwanted chemicals, hormones, or antibiotics have gotten into your food that could possibly upset the body’s homeostasis.
5. Helping to Protect the Environment
Sustainable agriculture is much more eco-friendly than conventional agriculture in safeguarding the environment from toxic waste. Small family farms produce less environmental waste via carbon monoxide, pesticides, and chemical fertilizers. Quality is not being compromised for quantity, so giant processing and sorting machines that are not good for the environment are unnecessary. Food sold at farmers markets has not been subject to the heavy processing that is used with many foods sold today in supermarkets. In addition, the need to transport food long distances, which not only impacts the quality of the food itself but the environment as well, is eliminated. Long distance shipping, the method major supermarkets rely on to fill their vast inventories, contributes significantly to air pollution. In fact, supermarkets might receive produce that comes from hundreds or even thousands of miles away. In order to transport these foods via refrigerated trucks or rail cars, significant amounts of fossil fuels are required. However, farmers market produce doesn’t have to travel long distances, so the need for fossil fuels is greatly diminished. Lastly, because farmers markets are located outside, no electricity or heat is necessary to operate them.
6. Unusual Varieties Not Available Elsewhere
One of the main reasons why so many people have trouble sticking to a diet is that their daily menus lack variety. At farmers markets, even though the food is seasonal, lack of choice is never a problem. In fact, you will find many unusual heirloom varieties that supermarkets don’t stock at all.
7. One Stop Food Shopping
Fruits and vegetables are not the only food items sold at farmers markets. You can also buy such products as meat, cheese, and eggs, all of which come from animals that have been fed natural diets and no hormones or antibiotics. Therefore, farmers markets are excellent places to visit for one stop food shopping for all your nutrition needs.
8. Opportunity to Learn About Your Food Straight From the Source
When you shop at a farmers market, there is never any doubt where your food is coming from. Farmers and food artisans will be happy to answer any questions and assist you in your selection.
9. Better Control Over What You’re Getting
At a supermarket, often you have no idea because the food is prepacked and sealed so you can’t inspect it beforehand. What an utter disappointment getting home, eager to enjoy your new purchase, only to discover then that is overripe, wilted, or slimy. At the farmers market you can take your time browsing through the different stalls in order to make the best possible selection.
10. Top Quality at Reasonable Prices
Farmer’s market produce is surprisingly affordable. The organic foods section is most supermarkets is not only very limited but also much more expensive than conventionally grown produce. However, at a farmers market, the prices tend to be only slightly higher.
11. No Need to Buy More of a Product Than You Need
Produce is very perishable. But when you buy it at a supermarket, you may have no choice but to buy a much larger quantity than you need or want, simply because that is how it is packaged. If you only want two carrots, onions, peppers, or peaches, no one at the farmers market will make you get two pounds. Buying more food than you need not only raises the cost, but one of two other bad things happen. Either you over-eat and slow down your weight loss, or you wind up throwing out the food that goes bad before you have a chance to eat it.
12. Free Recipes and Cooking Tips
Farmers markets are a good place to pick up free diet-friendly recipes and cooking tips. Some farmers markets also offer free classes and cooking demonstrations from time to time.
13. Get out & Get More Exercise
A trip to the farmers market is invigorating because instead of being cooped up in your home or office all day, with no exercise, you are outdoors getting plenty of exercise walking around to the different stalls.
14. Great Opportunity to Connect with the Community
Think of your local farmers market not only as an enjoyable way to get you out of the house for a good cause but also as an excellent social activity. Bring along other members of your family and make a day out of it so you can all enjoy quality together time. Farmers markets are also a great gathering place, perfect for meeting friends, making new ones, and connecting with your community.
This Week’s Blog Inspired Recipe:
Farmer’s Market Mediterranean Tomato & Watermelon Salad
The unique combination of refreshing tomato and crisp watermelon is a perfect way to slow down and enjoy one of the best of perks of summer, your local farmers market.
(Cuesa.org, 2017; Snyder, K. October 11, 2012; Williams, M. R., April 12, 2013) http://www.huffingtonpost.com/kimberly-snyder/farmers-market_b_1118572.html