The spreading popularity of farmers markets is growing here in the United States.  In Europe and Asia, people shop in street markets for their daily food – and have done so for ages. This ensures freshness and flavor in their diet. The best produce from the farmers market is fresh, often organic, worth your money and time, locally grown and supports families in your home area.

But, what we have here in America are grocery stores on every corner.  Because of this, few of us understand the benefits in shopping at our local farmers market.  Many times, convenience trumps benefits.  You might say, “If I can get food at the grocery store at any time, then why take more time to go to the farmers market?”  There are several very important reasons why it’s worth the trip. 

Is Your Food Really Fresh?

We usually have no idea how old our food is when we buy it from the grocery store.  Did you know that a dozen eggs from the grocery store are typically a month old?  No, I’m not kidding! When eggs are mass-produced, it takes considerable time to sort them, wash them, bleach them and pasteurize them. Then, they start shipping the eggs across the entire country!  By the time they hit your plate, you are most likely eating an egg that is a month old.  Doesn’t sound very fresh, does it?

Freshness is also a concern in the produce section of your grocery store.  The best fruits are picked before they are ripe, shipped across state – and even country lines – traveling over a thousand miles and several days before they make it to your local grocer.  Apples, for examples, are covered in wax and 1-methylcyclopropene to prevent decomposing before they get to your dinner table, lunch bag or snack tray! Chances are when you are biting into an apple from the grocery store it can be 5-14 months old and covered in chemicals!

In addition to old produce, chemicals used, miles and time traveled, now there are bacterial scares such as e-coli in foods like spinach, peanut butter, and other foods that are mass produced by industrial companies. Here is another reason food from the farmers market is fresher and safer!

When you shop the local farmers market, you are guaranteed to get fresh foods.  Many times, the farmer picked the best produce that morning!  Fruits and vegetables are picked ripe and ready for you to enjoy.  Once you taste their produce, there is nothing quite like the flavor of truly fresh food!

Know Where Your Food Comes From

When you shop at a supermarket, you rarely know where your food really comes from or the conditions in which it has grown. For example, did you know that many grapes are grown in Chile?  How are you supposed to know the growing conditions there?  Or better yet, how do you know what amount or kinds of pesticides were sprayed on those crops?

One of the benefits of shopping at a farmers market is that you can actually talk to the farmer! Most growers at farmers markets are very proud of their crops and can be enthusiastic answering your questions about how their products were grown.  This is also a good time to find out if they farm organic.

Typically, a smaller farm will not be “certified organic.” It costs a lot of money to earn organic certification for produce.  However, farms may still follow all the organic guidelines when producing their crops.  In my experience, even if the farmer doesn’t grow their crops 100% organic, the pesticides and herbicides they may use are extremely mild compared to the commercial produced varieties. 

Know Where Your Money is Going

The wonderful by-product of buying at a farmers market is supporting the people in your area who are making a living for their family.  You can actually see where your money is going! Shopping local supports families – not corporations. In a large grocery store, who knows where your dollars truly go. Mostly likely, it’s supporting larger industries that take out the “little guy.”

Many times, people complain prices at a farmers market are higher.  As thrifty as I am, I still believe it is worth every dollar you spend. The farmer has worked the ground, planted the seeds, hoed the weeds, watered, cared for and then finally picked them items that you are buying.  You know there is love, time and hard work that went into growing the best food you have the privilege of eating – freshness and flavor.

In my next article, I will give you helpful tips on how to make the most out of your next trip to the farmers market.

What about you?  Do you shop your local farmers market?  If you do, what are your favorite items to purchase? If you don’t go, what holds you back?

How have you experienced the difference between farmers market and grocery store produce? 

I’d love to know your answers.