I’m embarrassed to admit it, but farmers markets used to intimidate me. The stands and tents set up in the parking lot of City Hall looked nothing like the grocery stores that I was familiar with, and neither did some of the foods they were selling. Would I be expected to ask questions of the farmers? What would I ask? Do I need to bring cash? The whole thing was daunting. So, what finally got me packing up my canvas totes every week and heading down to the market? It was a combination of things that are important to me.
- Access to safe and nutritious food. My local grocery store has an okay organic section, but the selection there is very limited and doesn’t usually reflect what’s in season. By shopping at the farmers market I get a much bigger selection of foods grown by local farmers, many of whom are certified organic. And even for those who aren’t, the farmer is right there to answer any questions I have about whether or not they use pesticides on their crops so I always know exactly what I’m buying.
- Happy animals. As much as I would love to become a vegetarian and never have to eat another animal, it’s just not for me. The way I make myself feel better about this decision is by only eating animals that I know were raised humanely and on pasture. The number of options for purchasing this kind of meat at my local grocery store is exactly zero. By shopping at the farmers market I can talk to the farmers about how animals on their farms are raised, and some will even pull out their smartphones and share pictures of their happy herds.
- Supporting the local economy and community. When I go to the farmers market I love knowing that the money I spend is going directly back to the people who grew my food. It’s also a great place to meet like-minded members of your community and start building some new relationships.
- They’re a lot easier to navigate than they used to be. Many farms today will accept credit card payments through their smartphones and most will also accept SNAP benefits and WIC. Farmers markets are one of the fastest growing segments of agriculture. Check out the USDA’s website to find one close to you.
- It’s fun! My farmers market has become an event that I look forward to every week. There are live bands, freshly prepared foods, face painting, apple cider donuts, tasting stations, and most importantly: a lot of farmers who are prepared to chat, offer recipes, answer questions, and provide you with the freshest and most delicious food you will ever eat.