The internet is a wonderful invention that connects the world in many ways. One example is that this article was posted online and you are reading it. Unfortunately, the internet can also disconnect us from our immediate surroundings. Online news-feeds frequently report that American farmers can only survive on government subsidies, with their products being shipped overseas or going to waste. However, there’s a good chance that a short drive around town will connect you to a local farmer’s market.
If you stop to browse the stalls rather than drive past, you’ll find some of that fresh produce being lamented on the internet isn’t going overseas and needn’t go to waste. A wide selection of fruits, vegetables, and other goods are available to you, all grown and produced by neighbors you probably didn’t realize you had. Major supermarket chains and box warehouses may seem more convenient, but there is a strong case to be made for supporting local, independent growers.
7 Reasons Why You Should Visit a Local Farmer’s Market
1. Locally Grown Produce Is Fresher and Tastes Better
Whether you’ve traveled or merely watched romantic movies like Under the Tuscan Sun and French Kiss, which contain scenes wherein locals in Italy and France gather to enjoy meals prepared from fresh, locally grown produce, you’re affected in the same manner. It all looks so good and so inviting, doesn’t it? Maybe you’ve heard someone say the fare in those countries is much better than what passes for French and Italian cuisine in the United States? There’s a reason it’s true.
Fruits and vegetables prepared for those far-off tables are fresh. They grow to full ripeness on the vine or in the field and don’t travel vast distances to reach your plate. Meanwhile, produce served in American restaurants or sold in supermarkets ripens during shipment. It frequently sits in storage for weeks. While in transit, it may be gassed or dyed to simulate freshness, but that appearance is deceiving. Fresh produce, picked when ripe, and eaten soon after, always tastes better.
2. Locally Grown Produce Offers Greater Nutritional Value
Time is not only the enemy of produce in terms of preserving its freshness. The longer that fruits and vegetables sit idly or in transit before being prepared and eaten, the less nutrition they offer. As well as using gasses and dyes to preserve the appearance of freshness in their produce, many vendors and shippers water their fruits and vegetables so that they don’t dry out before reaching the consumer. All that water absorbs nutrients, reducing the produce’s nutritional benefits.
In addition, the mass-produced fruits and vegetables which travel so far, risking freshness, are often grown with pesticides, hormones, and antibiotics. Many are genetically modified. Those coming from foreign countries are frequently irradiated by customs. Studies have proven that the chemicals and substances added to produce by so-called factory farms before reaching your local chain grocer contribute to various conditions, including heart disease and cancer. Locally grown, chemical-free organic fruits and vegetables are always the healthier choice for your table.
3. Supporting Local Growers Also Supports the Environment
Did you know that, on average, food products sold in the United States travel 1,500 miles to reach the consumer? Items grown in the US typically reach their destination by diesel truck and train. Foreign imports arrive by sea and air. That’s a lot of fossil fuels consumed, not to mention nitrogen, carbon, and greenhouse gasses emitted into the atmosphere just to enjoy a meal. Your carbon footprint is significantly reduced when you purchase fresh produce from local farmers.
Beyond the dangerous, harmful pollutants released while carrying produce to market, consider the excessive packaging that protects and decorates your store-bought produce. Reports have revealed that less than 10% of the non-biodegradable paper and plastic we toss into the blue bin is actually recycled. The rest is burned, releasing more carbons into the air, or dumped at sea to wreak havoc on marine ecosystems. Local farmers use far less packaging for their produce, thanks to much shorter trips to market.
Have you noticed that organic foods cost more than their counterparts loaded with preservatives and other additives? This is true at major grocery chains which sell both and those that pride themselves on being exclusively organic and natural. They have health-conscious customers over a barrel, forcing them to pay more for what is essentially less.
On the other hand, purchasing organic produce from local growers is significantly less expensive than shopping at a national or regional grocery chain. The reason for this is simple. Local farmers don’t need to factor in massive transportation and storage costs, nor the wages of a much larger workforce. They operate with a much lower overhead. In fact, there might be farms near you that invite customers to come pick their own fruits and vegetables, lowering the cost even further.
5. The Variety of Goods at Your Local Market Will Surprise You
While many people are rediscovering the joys of cooking, which could be an unexpected benefit of the pandemic, major grocers have been slow in offering greater variety in the produce section. For the most part, the big boys stick to what sells, carrying the same three or four kinds of staple items, be it apples, oranges, lettuce, or tomatoes. Although they cast their net further afield to stock their shelves, your best option for variety might be closer to home.
Does your grocer offer rare items such as red carrots, purple cauliflower, green zebra tomatoes, pomelo, sunchokes, Romanesco broccoli, or celery root? What about fennel, zucchini blossoms, butter beans, garlic scapes, jicama, samphire, or kohlrabi? The time of year factors in, as well. The fare from your local growers will frequently change depending on the season and climate where you live. The added anticipation and sense of adventure only adds to the fun. Every trip promises new and tasty treasures.
6. Discover New Recipes, Ideas for Meals, and Cooking Techniques
A bustling farmer’s market can be surprisingly sociable, especially when you’re accustomed to keeping your distance while shopping indoors. Wind and other factors render the COVID virus a minor risk outdoors. Medical experts estimate less than a 1% rate of transmission in the open air. With that in mind, people at local markets actually take the time to stop and talk to one another. It’s nice to find a place where that is possible in this more guarded world.
Vendors and other shoppers are often eager to share favorite recipes, new dishes tried, or original methods for preparing and cooking traditional fare. You may wish to share yours, too, but bring a pen and paper in case you make a friend who doesn’t venture online. In addition to shared ideas, vendors may have some treats available to sample or purchase, perhaps a tasty cheese from their dairy, or bottled apple cider made from apples grown in a nearby orchard.
7. Shopping at Your Local Farmer’s Market Strengthens Your Community
With the advent of big-box warehouses, major retail and food chains, social distancing, families spread far and wide, and online shopping, Americans grow increasingly farsighted in social terms. In other words, we tend to miss the good things right under our noses. There are many benefits to the internet and the global economy, but we also need to be more familiar with our surroundings.
Everyone wants to live in beautiful, safe neighborhoods, but we tend to forget that our community only thrives when everyone is doing well. That includes local farmers struggling against big agribusiness to find markets in which to sell their fresh, healthy goods. The dollars you spend with them remain in the community, increasing the tax base, raising the level of education in your child’s public school, as well as improving other important social services. Helping your neighbor means helping yourself.
Visit the Farmer’s Market
Your health depends on many things, including your diet, economic status, quality of life, and social interaction. Supporting your local farmer’s market enhances those factors. Time spent meeting neighbors at the local market is emotionally healthy. Your local growers’ produce is fresher and tastes better, making for both a healthier diet and quality of life. Finally, the money saved by shopping at your local market increases your spending power while contributing to the wellbeing of local farmers and the community.
The High Desert in Southern California is a down-to-earth area, even if it is a little elevated in terms of altitude. Apple Valley is a small, local community that understands the plight and strengths of the local farmer but also dreams of connecting with the wider world. Come into Town’s End Stillhouse and Grill
to discover how we’ve combined local fare and spirits with antiques and vintage collectibles from across this great country.