Why You Need to Shop at Farmers Markets
Farmers markets play a vital role in our food systems. To recognize this, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has proclaimed the first full week of August as the 16th Annual National Farmers Market Week.
Farmers markets are a wonderful way to meet family farmers in person. I first started to understand the importance of family farmers when I read ” The Seasons on Henry’s Farm: A Year of Food and Life on a Sustainable Farm.” Such an inspiring look at the dedication the Brockman family – fifth generation farmers – put in to keep their farm successful. This book introduced me to the concept sustainable farming and what happens behind the scenes as farmers prepare their products for market. It changed how I think about and source my food. (I will post a full review of this book soon.)
Why are farmers markets necessary?
- They get us outside and connect us to our communities and the Earth.
- By bringing us local food, we have fresher food that has less time to lose its nutritional value. And don’t think the farmers market is just about produce: we always find fantastic, humanely-farmed eggs, chicken and lamb as well as artisanal cheese and preserves.
- They provide a way for farmers to directly meet the increasing demand for local, fresh food, including bringing greatly-needed nourishment to “food deserts.” Across the United States many farmers markets now accept government assistance vouchers, which is great for both the farmers and their customers who normally couldn’t access fresh, healthy food.
- Another reason I am drawn to the farmers markets instead of the grocery store is the opportunity to economically support local farms and businesses. Farmers markets help family farms survive and thrive, keeping people gainfully employed at something they love. By selling at farmers markets, family farmers get better prices for their products compared to mass distribution options.
- Farmers markets keep our money local!
- Environmentally, farmers markets help to lower the food supply carbon footprint because the food doesn’t have to travel long-haul to get to us. They also make it easy to use less food packaging: I cannot think of any vendor that packages its produce or uses non-reusable containers. And when I bring my own shopping bag and mesh produce bags, I know I am helping global sustainability efforts, too.
- They are great places to learn and expand your food horizons. I’ve learned about new-to-me veggies (wild asparagus!) and quite a few excellent recipes from vendors at markets in North America and in Europe.
We’ve already started our of National Farmers Market Week celebration by heading to the Evergreen Brickworks Farmers Market in Toronto. Our haul included some super-fresh spinach and a quart of the first peaches of the season. The spinach went into a simple spinach and feta sauté. This coming Saturday we’re off to our mainstay the farmers market at Wychwood Barns.