What’s the big deal with farmer’s markets?

Lettuce at the Farmer's MarketThe height of summer, to me, is the best time of the year. Beaches, pool parties, plenty of sunshine, and abundant gardens have always been the highlight of this time of year.

Fairly recently, I made a discovery through family members that has changed my life — I’m talking about Farmer’s Markets.

Here’s the scenario…

Imagine a place where you can find all of the locally grown, fresh picked, organic produce that you could ever want. A place that has handcrafted clothing and jewelry, locally tapped maple syrup, eggs harvested from free range chickens that very morning, bread freshly baked in a wood fired brick oven, homemade ice cream, and soap made from natural ingredients.

Somewhere that you can go to browse for hours on end, catch up with old friends, and make new friends, because everyone is so friendly. Imagine the “old school” way of life, where neighbors come together and help one another.

This, my friends, is the Farmer’s Market. They are all different in their own ways, but they all serve the same purpose — to bring people together to help the local farmers, crafters, and small businesses survive in an economy where they would normally be eaten alive.

So, what’s the difference between a grocery store and a Farmer’s Market?

Quality information: The biggest difference is that you know exactly where your items are coming from. Ask a produce associate in a grocery store where his apples came from, and he most likely will glare at you with contempt (been there, done that). Ask a farmer at a Farmer’s Market where his apples came from, and he can tell you exactly what row of his orchard that they came from, what they used for pest control (usually not chemicals), when he picked those apples, and which apples would taste best in certain dishes. These farmers are more than happy — in fact, PROUD — to share any information that you would ever want to know.

Support local economy: Another difference is that, by shopping at a Farmer’s Market, you’re supporting your local farmers. All across the United States, small farms are becoming endangered because of economic woes and over-development. And meanwhile, we, the consumers, are buying from grocery stores that normally get their produce from large commercial farms that are run like factories. In these large farms, produce is often washed in a wax solution that preserves it for longer, then it sits in a chilled warehouse for days or even weeks before it’s trucked to stores.

Great for the whole fam: Lastly, Farmer’s Markets are very family-friendly. It’s a great, wholesome place where people can take their children to educate them about how farms work, learn the history of the area, mingle with other little ones, and enjoy healthy, eco-friendly wares. Also, some Farmer’s Markets actually offer workshops, such as jewelry-making, cooking, foraging, and gardening, where local experts come in and share their knowledge with the public for a small fee (or sometimes even FREE!). It’s a great opportunity to get out and learn something new and useful, even on a tight budget.

If you haven’t tried a Farmer’s Market yet, I highly suggest it. In fact, if I could, I’d drive you to one myself. But, chances are, there’s a Market going on close to you, no matter where you are in the country. Just take an hour to walk around the Market and speak with the vendors, and I can guarantee that you’ll be hooked!

[photo: Sue Muldoon at Sue Muldoon Images]

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About Heather Van Allen

Heather Van Allen is a writer, blogger, and modern day hippie. Her blog is primarily focused on helping people live happier, healthier lives. Her interests include music, writing, storm chasing, photography, and spending time with her fiance and children.

  • Belle Rita

    There are over 6,000 farmers’ markets in the U.S. now. As far as your comment about apples, they are very difficult to grow without at least some chemicals. A man who owns an apple orchard once said to me that most people won’t eat organic apples because they aren’t pretty enough.

  • http://www.deborah-adams.com Deborah Adams

    Wonderful piece, Heather! I’ve been blogging about my July 100 Mile Diet and just posted a bit about the farmers market — more than just fruit and veggies! You’ve made a fine argument for making the farmers market our first stop on any shopping trip, no matter whether we need food, clothing, or other items.

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