If you’re not sure why or what the benefits are, there’s a good number of reasons to shop at a farmers market. These days, knowing how and where our food is grown and processed matters more and more, so having a greater choice of where we do our grocery shopping can only be a good thing. These reasons to shop at a farmers market may convince you to change your food buying habits.
1. A Better Diet
The nutritional value and flavour of food deteriorate over time, and let’s be honest, you really have no idea how long those piles of unpacked fruit and vegetables have been sitting there on supermarket shelves before you buy them. They might have been in the store room for days, and before that they might have been at the farm for days or even weeks in the case of things like onions and potatoes. One of the healthiest reasons to shop at a farmers market is the produce is usually fresher. In most cases, it was probably in the field 24 hours before being put on sale.
2. Eat According to the Seasons
Do you remember the days when winter vegetables were only available in winter and summer fruit and vegetables only appeared in the summer months, unless you paid an exorbitant price for imports? (Unless you’re over 30, you probably don’t!) These days, seasons have no bearing on what ends up on our dinner tables. This fact raises two issues. One is that imports are a major contribution to food miles – food cargo uses masses of energy to ship it all around the world. The other reason is that if it is grown out of season rather than imported, it is going outside the laws of nature; the food probably has to be forced to grow under artificial conditions. Being able to select from seasonal food grown organically is one of the sensible reasons to buy food from a farmers market.
3. It’s a Great Learning Opportunity
We are absolutely bombarded with information about food, and so much of it is contradictory. It is a minefield trying to navigate your way through the list of things supposedly bad for you and how much of certain somethings you should be including in your diet. Shopping at a farmers market is the opportunity to gain firsthand knowledge. You can talk directly to the growers and producers. You can find out how it's grown and how it is made and you can find out what ingredients have been used. It’s very unlikely anyone with a stall will be proud of the preservatives and additives in their products – there won’t be any!
4. Supporting the Community
Many people ask why they should shop at a farmers market. Isn’t it too much effort? Not really. By shopping at a farmers market, you are supporting your local community. The people who sell at the markets are putting a lot of their own effort into providing the community with better choices, wider choices and an alternative to supermarket shopping. If you are community-spirited, buying from your local producers is a great way to show it.
5. Get out in the Fresh Air
Think about it. What’s best? An hour trudging around a sterile supermarket in the glare of fluorescent lights, pushing a wonky trolley, listening to muzak, faced with aisles with so many choices it is bewildering, or a couple of hours in the fresh air, maybe some sunshine, chatting with friendly stall holders and running into friends and neighbors? On cold days, they’ll be a store on hand with mugs of warming soup or steaming hot chocolate and in the summer, plenty of choices to cool you down.
6. Doing Your Bit for Planet Earth
Food production is one of the major influences on the degradation of our environment. The energy used in its production and transportation is immense and pesticides are poisoning the soil. If you want to make a positive environmental statement, just look at the reasons to shop at a farmers market. With localized food production, less energy is used both in production and distribution, and as most farmers market produce leans towards organic, there is no environmental degradation due to chemicals.
7. It’s Fun
Unlike supermarket shopping, there is almost a sense of occasion at a farmers market – especially if it is only held fortnightly or monthly. It’s the community coming together for everyone’s good and farmers markets are a friendly place for the whole family. A number of markets have extended the experience beyond produce and artisan food products, and all sorts of craftsmen will have their wares on show. You never know what you might be taking home with you that you never imagined when you set out on what you thought was a vegetable buying expedition.
For anyone who wants to be an informed consumer or more health conscious in their food decisions, the reasons to shop at a farmers market make a convincing argument. Why not turn your shopping into a social and educational occasion?