Ten Reasons to Shop at Your Local Farmers Market

1. Fresh Produce
Yes, this seems to be a no-brainer, but most produce you will find in your local supermarket has traveled hundreds or thousands of miles before it arrives in the produce section. In order for the fruits and vegetables to appear fresh and recently picked, they are harvested when they are still green so they can withstand the journey of days or even weeks. A lot of the nutritional value is lost during transport, as well as flavor. Fruits and vegetables are coated with a thick wax-like substance to make them look shiny and inviting, but what could be less inviting than a wax-coated tomato that has no taste?

2. You’re Helping the Environment
Food you buy at the farmers market in your community comes from, for the most part, your region. Eliminating the number of miles food travels before getting to the grocery store helps reduce pollution, noise, and gas consumption. Packaging of things like strawberries, herbs, and potatoes contributes to landfill fodder. At a farmers market, “packaging” is typically a plastic basket, which is used time and time again. Bring your own bag, and you have eliminated packaging waste dramatically. In addition, farmers markets encourage more organic or pesticide free growing — so be prepared to purchase vegetables and fruits that don’t look as shiny or as perfect as you would find in a grocery store. But the taste? Unbeatable.

3. Many Farmers Markets Accept Cash or Card
In addition to cash, which is always welcome and preferred, many farmers markets now accept credit cards and SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) benefits. Access to healthy, delicious produce is not always easy. In Colorado, a farmers market brings cantaloupe and melons from the Rocky Ford area, which is famous for its juicy, sweet melon production. Peaches from the Western Slope, as well as cherries and grapes, can be purchased by the basketful, and what makes a better summertime snack than that?

4. You’re Avoiding the Junk Food Aisles
Farmers markets are a great place to shop if you are trying to avoid junk food. Besides fresh vegetables and fruits, you can find fresh baked bread, preservative-free pastries, and homemade salsas and chips. Eliminating preservatives from your diet contributes to a healthier body and helps with weight loss.

5. You Contribute to the Local Economy
Large agribusiness dominates food production in the U.S. Since 1979, about 300,000 small farms have disappeared in the United States, and large companies such as Archer-Daniels Midland dominate American agriculture. Small family farms have a very hard time competing in the food marketplace against these giants. Buying directly from farmers offers them a better return for their produce and gives them a fighting chance in today’s global economy. The money stays local and is put back into the economy where it benefits us most — right here.

6. You Know Where Your Food Comes From
A trip to a farmers market is one of the best ways to connect with where your food comes from. I think a lot of us have forgotten (or never knew) how a pumpkin grows — on a beautiful, twisty vine from exquisitely designed flowers (which taste good, too) — or how a peach ripens on a bough, warm from the sunlight, or how good a lemon smells from the outside without all of that waxy coating getting in the way. Talking to farmers is a great opportunity to learn more about how and where food is produced, and what is in season.

7. Speaking of Season. . . .
The food you buy at the farmers market is seasonal. Shopping and cooking from the farmers market helps us to reconnect with the cycles of nature in our region. You can count on finding asparagus in spring, sweet corn in summer, and pumpkins in the fall, which in turn helps us reconnect with the earth, the weather, and the changing seasons. Canning these items when they are fresh makes them available to you year-round, and there is nothing better than enjoying some fresh corn off the cob in the dead of winter.

8. No More Animal Abuse
Most of the meats, cheeses, and eggs you will find at a farmers market come from animals that have been raised without hormones or antibiotics. They have also grazed on green grass and pecked on corn and seeds, and they have never seen the likes of cramped, filthy, unnatural living conditions found on feedlots and poultry farms that are the norm in animal agriculture. In the end, the meat is better for you, it tastes amazing, and the animals were raised in a humane way.

9. You Learn How to Prepare What You Buy
Farmers are more than happy to share tips and tricks on how to prepare the food you have purchased. You can learn how to prepare the produce to get the most nutritional value and taste, how to preserve the produce through canning or freezing, and how to combine flavors and textures to make an unforgettable meal. I’m lucky if I can get the butcher at Safeway to grudgingly cut me a piece of meat, much less talk to me about how to roast it with seasonal vegetables. And then where that meat came from? But I digress.

10. You Connect with Your Community
Walking around sunny, outdoor stalls of fresh produce is infinitely better than pushing your cart around a grocery store with artificial lights and piped in music. OK, I have to admit that the music at the Safeway has gotten better, or have I just gotten older? Seriously though, shopping at the farmers market is a pleasure rather than a test of endurance. The farmers market is a community hub — a place to meet up with your friends, bring your children, and hang out. Many farmers markets have live music and places to eat and rest with a park-like feel. No stress.

Visiting your local farmers market is a practical way to improve our quality of life. The world has grown so big and confusing that it’s easy to feel like we can’t make much of a difference anymore. Spending time at a farmers market does make a difference because when we shop there, we create community and help each other out in meaningful ways. It’s a tradition worth carrying forward.