Why I Shop at My Local Farmer’s Market -- And You Should Too!
Growing up in a small farming community, I was used to stopping at local farmstands to buy produce during the summer (sweetcorn was my favorite). I always loved how much better the fruits and vegetables tasted in comparison to what could be found at the grocery store. But once I moved to the big city (a.k.a. Chicago), I assumed I’d be doing all my grocery shopping in stores. That’s until I stumbled across a local farmer’s market, and now I spend every Saturday morning from May through October picking out fresh, seasonal produce. Besides how delicious the food tastes and the ability to discover local products that I can’t find in stores, there are several other benefits to shopping at your local farmer’s market. Here are my top 5 reasons why you need to become a frequent farmer’s market shopper like me.
1. Eat with the Seasons
The advice of eating seasonally has been around for thousands of years, stemming from ancient health practices of Traditional Chinese Medicine and Ayurveda. In recent years, eating food grown in season has become more popular as experts and studies (like this one) are promoting the health benefits of doing so. When you shop at your local farmer’s market, you won’t need to guess or google what produce is in season because that’s what they will be selling. Bonus: seasonally available produce tastes better!
(Want to learn more about the benefits of eating with the seasons from the lens of Ayurveda? Check out our episode with Justine Miller, in which her top tip is to eat seasonally!)
2. Try New Recipes
If you are anything like me, you tend to stick to cooking about 10-15 (maybe 20 if I’m being generous) different recipes. But when I go to the local farmer’s market and see the vibrantly colored fruits and veggies, I get inspired to buy things I normally wouldn’t in the grocery store. And then I have to look up recipes on how to actually use the items. This has led me to adding some very delicious recipes to my repertoire. If you want to mix it up with your meals, then get adventurous and add at least one new vegetable or fruit to your farmer’s market basket.
3. Contribute to the Health of Your Gut Microbiome
A little talked about fact is that soil was essential in the development of the human gut microbiome and is something that is lacking in the modern diet given lifestyle (a.k.a. most of us aren’t farmers) and highly processed foods. This is where produce from your local farmer’s market can come in handy since you’ll notice that much of it still has dirt on it. While you’ll still want to rinse your fruits and vegetables before eating them, don’t scrub them clean! A little dirt can help the diversity and health of your gut microbiome, and much of the produce sold at farmer’s markets are organic so you don’t have to worry about gnarly toxic chemicals. (If you want to ensure the items are truly organic, ask the farmer -- they are usually super friendly and super excited to talk about their farm.)
P.S.: In our episode with Phoebe Lapine about gut health, she recommends leaving some of the dirt on the fruits and veggies from the farmer’s market or your garden in order to support your gut health.
4. Buy Local
The “buy local” movement has grown in popularity over the past few years, and shopping at your farmer’s market is a great way to join the movement. The farmers at the market are local, family-owned, and they go to these markets because they can get a better price from their produce when you buy it rather than when they have to sell on the “open market.” With the large agribusiness companies dominating the economy, small family-run farms rely on farmer’s markets to get a fair price. And I love the fact that I get to meet the actual person growing the food I eat!
5. Reduce Your Environmental Footprint
1,500 miles -- that’s the average distance that food travels in the U.S. (yikes!) Besides the pollution created and the fossil fuels consumed in shipping, large-scale agricultural corporations tend to use practices that are now being deemed unsustainable and that create toxic by-products that pollute the land, water and air. I’m not saying that you can’t shop at the grocery store (I definitely still do, even though I love my farmer’s market). But I think shopping at your local farmer’s market can be a good step towards reducing your environmental impact. And who doesn’t want to be part of the solution toward taking better care of the planet?
Shopping at farmer’s markets is one of my favorite summertime activities, even when I’m traveling. However, the first few times I went to the farmer’s market, I was a little overwhelmed because I went at peak shopping times, and things aren’t as orderly at the market as they are at the grocery store. If this is you (or you are planning to go for the first time), I recommend planning to go close to when the market opens. There tends to be less people so you feel less rushed in having to decide what to purchase and feel more comfortable asking questions as there isn’t a line of people behind or next to you. Plus, when you get there when it first opens, you get first dibs on things (and who doesn’t love first dibs?!). My last piece of advice for farmer’s market shopping is to stop at all of the vendors, even if you think you bought everything you need/want already. You never know when you’ll find a beautiful bouquet of flowers, an interesting hot sauce, or a delicious artisanal pastry. Oh, and don’t forget to bring your own reusable shopping totes!