Farmer’s Markets: Tis The Season

It’s Saturday morning and while most people are still in bed, farmers across the country have already loaded up their trucks and headed into town. Many communities across the country have farmer’s markets on select days of the week, and no time is more popular than Saturday morning. Find farmer’s markets in your neighborhood here.

While farmer’s markets are great, especially for the local farmer, there are a couple of things to be aware of before you rush off and fill your bags with produce.

1. Just because something is available at the local farmer’s market, doesn’t mean it was grown locally. To me, this came as a complete shock, and turned me off from farmer’s markets for awhile. I went one week and saw some locally grown vegetables, but the grapes were from Chíle and the melons were from Honduras. If I wanted fruit imported from South and Central America, I’d just go to the grocery store. Make sure you’re looking for labels as to where the food is grown. Most farmers will go out of their way to advertise that their food is local, so if you don’t see a sign that says locally grown, that should be a bit of a red flag.

2. Just because something is available at the local farmer’s market, doesn’t mean it was grown organically. For a multitude of reasons, I feel that organic produce is the best thing going. The difference in taste between the organic and non-organic is astronomical. The environmental benefits of organic farming are well documented, as is the harm associated to the environment associated with excessive fertilizer and pesticide application at non-organic farms. The nutritional content in organic produce is also better in organic foods.

3. That said, just because it’s not organic, doesn’t mean it’s terrible for you, especially if it’s local. The process and paperwork required to obtain the Organic status from the USDA is very extensive and expensive. If the farm is small, the profit margin is likely razor thin. For the farmer to risk major losses by going through the certified organic process may not make sense. But by talking to the farmer, you may find that his or her produce is every bit as organic as those labeled organic, and it’s probably cheaper, too.

And even if it’s not completely organic, the argument can be made that local non-organic is as good or better than organic produce grown across the country, or in another country, that has to be shipped hundreds or thousands of miles to get to you.

4. You can shake the hand that grows your food. To me, the biggest pro about shopping at a farmer’s market is that you can talk with the farmer and learn how difficult farming really is. I’ve never met a farmer that I got a bad vibe from. They are all just people trying to earn a modest living and provide for their families. By building that relationship with the farmers in your area, you provide valuable feedback and encouragement for them to keep doing what they are doing. Starting a farm is a scary adventure, but knowing that you have a loyal customer base helps to limit the anxiety. Also, you are likely to find that farmers, like any good business, aim to please. By building a positive relationship with your farmer, you may be able to request new crops for the farmer to grow that you enjoy. In any event, getting to know the farmers at the farmer’s market is one of the best parts of shopping there.

5. Farmer’s markets are good for everyone involved. Bottom line, if a farmer can’t make enough money to live, he or she has to get out of the business. By selling goods at a farmer’s market, farmers are often able to get a better cost than by selling them wholesale. And while the farmer is able to get a better price for his or her goods, the consumer also gets a better deal. By buying direct from the farmer, you are able to get a better price than you can find in the grocery store.

So on this Saturday morning, put your coffee in a to-go cup, slap on some SPF, and head down to farmer’s market for some delicious, fresh, and healthy local produce!

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