Wednesday, April 20, 2016

How to Shop Your Farmer's Market

Spring and summer are the perfect months for hitting up your local farmer's market for the freshest seasonal fare.  Supporting local farms and cooking with amazing ingredients make all the difference.

Have A Mission
Know what you want.  Look out for ingredients for specific meals.  Bring an easy to carry bag so that you can store all your goodies.

Not always the answer but sometimes arriving late means better deals.  However, depending on what you need speciality items like english peas and berries will go faster.  The staples like leeks and potatoes, not so much.

Make Relationships
Ask the farmer questions, most of them love what they do and they want to talk about it.  Get to know your vendors and place orders in advance.

Taste Real Flavors
The fruits and vegetables you buy at the farmers market are the freshest tastiest available.  Fruits are allowed to ripen fully in the field and are brought directly to you- no long distance shipping, no gassing to stimulate the ripening process, no sitting for weeks in storage.  This food is as real as it gets- fresh from the farm.

Enjoy the Season
The food you buy at the farmers market is seasonal.  It is fresh and delicious and reflects the truest flavors.  Shopping and cooking from the farmers market helps you to reconnect with the cycles of nature in our region.  As you look forward to asparagus in the spring, savor the sweet corn in the summer, or bake pumpkins in the fall.  Connect with the earth, the weather and the turning of the year. 

Support Family Farmers
Family farmers need your support, now that large agribusiness dominates the food production in the United States.  Small family farms have a hard time competing in the food marketplace.  Busying directly from the farmers gives them a better return for their produce and gives them a fighting chance.

Protect the Environment
Food in the United States travels an average of 1,500 miles to get to your plate.  All this shipping uses large amounts of natural resources (especially fossil fuels), contributes to pollution, and creates trash with extra packaging.  Conventional agriculture also uses many more resources than sustainable agriculture and pollutes water, land, and air with toxic agricultural by-products.  Food at the farmers market is transported shorter distances and is generally grown using methods that minimize the impact on the earth. 

Nourish Yourself
Much food found in grocery stores is highly processed and grown using pesticides, hormones, antibiotics, and genetic modification.  Some of it has been irradiated, waxed, or gassed in transit.  These practices may have negative effects on human health.  In contrast, most food found at the farmers market is minimally processed, and many of our farmers to go great lengths to grow the most nutritious produce possible by using sustainable techniques, picking produce right before the market, and growing heirloom varieties.

At the farmers market you find an amazing array of produce that you don't see in your average supermarket: red carrots, a rainbow of heirloom tomatoes, purple cauliflower, stinging nettles, green garlic, watermelon radishes, quail eggs, maitake mushrooms, and much, much more.  It is a wonderful opportunity to savor the biodiversity of our planet.

Promote Humane Treatment of Animals
At the farmers market, you can find meats, cheeses, and eggs from animals that have been raised without hormones or antibiotics, who have grazed on green grass and eaten natural diets, and who have been spared the cramped and unnatural living conditions of feedlots and cages that are typical of animal agriculture.

Know Where Your Food Comes From
A regular trip to a farmers market is one of the best ways to connect with where your food comes from.  Meeting and talking to farmers and food artisans is a great opportunity to learn about how and where food is produced. 

 Cooking Tips, Recipes, and Meal Ideas
Few grocery store cashiers or produce stockers will give you tips on how to cook the ingredient you buy, but farmers, ranchers, and artisans at the farmers market are often passionate cooks with plenty of free advice about how to cook the foods that they are selling.  

Connect with Your Community
Wouldn't you rather stroll amidst outdoor stalls of fresh produce on a sunny day than roll your cart around a grocery store with artificial lights and piped music?  Coming to the farmers market makes shopping a pleasure rather than a chore.  The farmers market is a community hub- a place to meet up with your friends, bring your children, or just get a taste of small-town life.


Don't Rule Out Your Grocer
In general, produce from the farms at the farmers market is superior to what is being offered at the grocery store.  However, its not always practical to buy everything from the farmers market.  Seasonal items in abundance may be offered at bulk-discounts rates at your local grocery store.  Look at what is on sale, that indicates what is fresh and in season.  You may see that the grocery store has better prices.

That being said, it is always best to support your local farmers.  Know where your food is coming from.  Teach your kids where their food comes from.  Help them learn why certain foods grow during certain times of year.

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