With farmers markets opening up again for the growing seasons it’s time to put an open air visit on your weekly calendar.
It shouldn’t be that hard. In 1994 in the US there were 1, 755 farmers markets. Last year that number had swelled to 6, 132 according to the USDA’s website, which represented a 16% jump in markets over 2009. And the trend just continues.
This is the future and it can fit in your basket.
All pros, no cons
It’s clear that folks love shopping this way, enjoying everything from local music to local crafts at the same time they get their local foods.
And it’s great for farmers, too. They can cut the price-hiking midddleman, expose their farm brand to hundreds of locals each week, and break down the social barrier between growers and consumers.
What’s even better is that farmers markets offer a plethora of food choices in their raw and simplest states, the mother of all produce aisles right on Main Street, USA. Among other things this means:
- Far less packaging.
- A much shorter distance that food travels, equaling both a smaller carbon footprint and food that’s retained more nutrients.
- Often lower prices and more choices.
- An opportunity to really learn about what grows in your region and how to cook it.
- A chance for entrepreneurs to enter the local food manufacturing market with salsas, sauces, soups, jams, pickled and fermented foods and baked goods. (Maybe even wine and beer!)
- More of your money spent stays in your local economy.
Food prep in a snap
As an advocate for less packaging, and a critic of the Standard American Diet, I see farmers markets as an opportunity to encourage more raw foods eating. I don’t mean the exotic and often time consuming uncooking of the raw foods movement, though that can produce some tasty and innovative results.
I just mean more salads, more melon on the side, more berries by the handful, fresh smoothies and more cruddite, well, just because.
Even if it’s not raw, just by traveling less fruits and veggies stay cleaner and get to market soon after harvest, which makes them healthier than those trucked from across the country or over the equator.
Pureed summer soups, diced veggie salads in herbed-yogurt sauce, or chutneys prepared for a local meat cut offer quick ways to use that local harvest while it’s at its freshest. And many markets now offer grains which, freshly ground, take your bread to the next level.
I’m so shopping local
It’s not hard to make the farmers market a part of your weekly routine. If it’s within a mile or so of your home you could even bike there. But be careful, you might get used to that. And start to prefer it. And then what would the neighbors think?
–Lindsay Curren, Lindsay’s List