It’s the season that always gets me really excited. Local farmers’ markets are starting to pop up with all of their fresh fruits and vegetables spread out on tables or piled in baskets, ripe and ready! I hit the road to the one closest to my house to take full advantage of nature’s best this past weekend, where I bought some carrots, apples, and amazing ginger soup, and didn’t stop there. Not only are farmers’ markets great for shopping on a budget, but they often include booths from restaurants and other vendors for inspiration. I knew when I saw a stand selling organic cashew kale chips I had stumbled onto something wonderful.
Getting to know your local farmers helps you make a connection with your community and your food. It’s a way to appreciate where your food comes from and ask, in person, about the farmers’ practices. You gain lots of insight into what you are eating and all the work behind it.
And your health reaps the benefits, too.
1. Good Clean Eating
The food is local and as a result it is much fresher which means more nutrients. A good rule of thumb is that the fewer days your food travels, the better it is for your health. Just as the popular book, The 100-Mile Diet: A Year of Local Eating, says: 89% of vitamin C from leafy green vegetables such as kale and spinach is lost 24 to 48 hours after the harvest, so that speed and turnaround time becomes very important. Trust me you will be able to taste the difference!
2. Organic and Healthy Options
Health food stores often sell organic produce, eggs, or meat at premium prices. The local farmers’ market tends to be more reasonable for pricing and you might even be able to get more in terms of quantity. Make sure to ask the farmer about whether or not the food is certified organic. You can also get information about farmers who participate in local community-supported agriculture (CSA) programs, which will give you more reasonably priced organic food right to your doorstep.
3. Say Goodbye to Processed Foods
If you’re looking for whole foods, farmers’ markets deliver! Many farmers offer organic poultry and beef, free of harmful antibiotics, steroids and growth hormones. You might also find homemade soups, salad dressings, honey or maple syrup, without preservatives or chemicals.
Another added bonus of the farmers’ market is the fresh air and the quality time you can spend with your family—make it an outing! For best nutrients, try to eat or cook whatever you buy as soon as you can. Enjoy the fresh food, good company and the outdoors. Maybe I’ll see you there!
Smith, A., et al, The 100-Mile Diet: A Year of Local Eating (New York: Random House Canada, 2007), 3.
Watson, M., “10 Farmers Market Shopping Tips,” About.com website; http://localfoods.about.com/od/farmersmarkets/tp/Farmers–Market-Tips.htm, last accessed May 15, 2014.