Farmers’ markets offer the opportunity to support small businesses and bring home the tastiest bites. But are you getting the most out of your market visit? Of course, you can stop by the market to pick up the produce you need and go straight home, but shopping at a farmer’s market gives you a unique opportunity to find out where your food comes from and the people behind it. produce.
Although large farmers’ markets have not always been easy to find, they have grown rapidly, from just under 2,000 in 1994 to almost 9,000 registered with the USDA Farmer’s Market Directory. Depending on where you live, you can find everything from produce, fresh cheeses and bread, to butcher’s meats, fish and prepared foods.
In addition, some farmers’ markets are open beyond the usual late spring to early fall season. Many markets move to indoor spaces during the colder months and sell winter produce, meat, eggs, dairy, baked goods, and seafood.
First, why shop at a farmers market?
Grocery stores are a great way to get conventional and organic produce, but locally sourced foods are especially good. durable.
For example, shopping on smaller farms reduces the transport of produce, explains Debra moser, co-founder of Central Farm Markets in Washington DC
“You are freshly picked. It was not transported across the country or Mexico or Canada, ”she said.
In addition, products reaching a farm stand is often picked the night before or early that morning, says Moser, compared to the seven to 14 days it takes to get on a supermarket shelf. In addition, more than 85% of the vendors at the farmer’s market have walked less than 80 kilometers to bring their produce to you, and more than half of the farmers have walked less than 10 kilometers, according to Farmers Markets Coalition.
In comparison, some studies suggest that fresh fruits and vegetables grown in the United States travel about 1,500 miles, on average, according to John Hopkins Center for a Livable Future.
Removing the middleman from the supermarket means more dollars can go straight to your local farmer, depending on the Farmers Markets Coalition. Additionally, farmers can tell you about the plant or meat they sell, as well as their farming practices.
3 Ways to Make the Most of Your Farmer’s Market Visit
Compare the prices
Give yourself time to get a good idea of what is available in your market, so that you can choose which farm stand you will be buying from. Start by comparing prices and varieties and make a mental note of where you want to return, suggests Katherine Sacks, head of digital content at FoodPrint, a project led by the GRACE Communications Foundation to raise awareness of current food systems and advocate for it. sustainable alternatives.
Then go back to those places and see if they have any samples to share or if they can answer your questions before you buy. You can also try different farmers every week until you find the one that provides the best produce and that you connect with the most.
Talk to the farmer
Take the time to get to know your farmer and the people who grow the food, suggests Moser. Ask questions that are important to you, such as if their products are organic, how they are grown and about the people who work with them on the farm. Get to know your farmer and you’ll feel good about supporting a small business you believe in.
Plus, buying direct from the farm is a great opportunity to ask questions about storage or cooking. The salesperson knows how to really make their product shine, and they can even share new or innovative ways to use their products that you might never have considered, Moser adds.
Put the price in context
Farmers’ markets often have a bad reputation for having more expensive options than grocery store. And while that can sometimes be true, it’s because every dollar you spend goes to smallholder farming; grocery stores can make it difficult for farmers to get a fair market price, says Moser.
American farmers receive an average of 14.3 cents of every dollar Americans spend on food, according to the National Farmers Union. This is due to the marketing, processing, wholesaling, distribution and retailing that they need to buy their food from the supermarket shelves. By comparison, farmers selling in local markets earned more than 90 cents on the dollar in 2017, according to the Farmers Markets Coalition.
If you are concerned about the price, set a budget before you start your store and stick to it. Sacks also suggests asking farmers if they have a box of “seconds” which are often available at a reduced price. These foods may have small imperfections but are still perfectly delicious.
What to bring to the farmers market
- Reusable bags. Although most farm stalls have bags available for you to use, a ecological option bring your own bags to the market.
- A cooler. Especially during the summer months, it’s ideal to pack a cooler with ice packs to keep everything cool until you get home. You can use newspaper to avoid direct contact with the ice.
- The water. Not all markets have a vendor available with snacks and drinks. Make sure to hydrate yourself during your visit, especially when the weather is hot.
- Cash. Although most farmers adopt some form of digital payment, sometimes they have minimum requirements and more often than not appreciate payment in cash.
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