There is no doubt that supermarkets serve a vital role in today’s economy and help to supply a great many families with fresh produce that can contribute to a healthy lifestyle.
In areas of the country where there are no farmers’ markets, a local supermarket might be your only option for obtaining the nutritious fresh produce your family needs.
It’s also true that during the winter season, most farmers’ markets are shut down, because there is simply no fresh produce to sell at that time. Once all fruits and vegetables have been harvested for the year, there is no fresh produce available for selling. That’s when you should turn to your supermarket to fulfill your family’s dietary needs.
However, when the weather is warm and benign, there are many reasons why it will be to your advantage to patronize local farmers’ markets, even apart from the nutrition aspect. Some of these important reasons are described below, and you should keep them in mind when you prepare to go food shopping each week.
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Finding ripe organic produce in abundance
Produce which has been grown organically is always much better for you, because it will have fewer pesticide residues than produce which is grown conventionally.
You will also know that there are fewer genetically modified food products, and that livestock will be more humanely raised when you do most of your shopping at a farmers’ market.
One of the big differences between farmers’ markets and supermarkets is the transportation factor. Believe it or not, the produce available in your local supermarket will generally be supplied by farmers an average of 1,500 miles away from the store.
That means the produce has to be picked when it’s still unripe, and it’s then allowed to ripen either in transit or on the shelves when it gets stocked at the supermarket.
Produce sold at farmers’ markets has a much shorter distance from farm to table, so you can be confident that your produce has recently been picked, and that fruits and vegetables are perfectly ripe.
This is also an indirect way of supporting the environment, since there are much shorter distances involved with farmers’ market produce, which equates to a much lower volume of carbon emissions.
Supporting local farmers and small-business owners
When you buy your produce at a local supermarket, less than $0.15 of every dollar actually finds its way into the pockets of the farmers and ranchers who grew that produce.
By contrast, when you purchase produce from farmers’ markets, all the middlemen are cut out of the operation, and a much greater portion of your dollar goes directly to the individuals who grew that produce.
By investing in your local farmers’ market, you’re actually making a good investment in your entire community that will support it for years to come. You’ll also be supporting the environment in a major way when you take your reusable grocery bags and head to the local farmers’ market.
Since most farmers sell their products with very little packaging, the carbon footprint is reduced, because it’s not necessary to produce packaging for all those products.
In addition, more than 60% of all farmers and vendors who travel to farmers’ market locations will have less than 20 miles to make the journey. That means the carbon footprint is reduced another way and air pollution is also lowered.
Many of the farmers who have a presence at local farmers’ markets engage in healthy soil practices such as cover cropping, applying compost, and reduced telling, all of which are favorable for the environment.
The social aspect of shopping at a farmers’ market
While this is something you might not ordinarily take into account, there are some definite social aspects associated with shopping at your local farmers’ market.
For one thing, many farmers’ markets over time have a tendency to take on historical significance, and to create lasting memories which provide a stronger sense of community for area residents.
There are few things that can bring people together, like fellowship and food, and a visit to the farmers’ market provides a wonderful opportunity to socialize with neighbors, even for a few hours.
Most farmers’ markets are also in an outdoor setting, so you can enjoy the sunshine and the gentle breezes while picking the perfect apples for your pie-making project.
Many people look forward to spending weekends in the spring, summer, and fall at the local farmers’ market to purchase ready-made meals, flowers, and fresh fruits and produce.
If you take your children with you to the farmer’s market, it’s likely to awaken their curiosity and their love of learning, especially if you allow them to pick out the fruits and vegetables.
Some children enjoy making a game out of this, and in this benign outdoor setting, most children enjoy the shopping experience more than in an enclosed supermarket.
In addition to all the other benefits of shopping at a local farmers’ market, you might be surprised that some lasting memories and fond recollections are created at each weekend trip to your local farmers’ market.