Explore Your Local Farmers' Markets
Thinking Global, Acting Local
Once a week, here in Ocean Beach, San Diego, an entire block closes traffic and local sellers converge to sell their fruits, vegetables, food, crafts, or anything else they like. A few musicians set up shop, a couple of llamas appear, and there's now even a jump house. The Farmers' Market is a Wednesday event here in OB, one many people make a habit of visiting every week. But other than it being a fun event, a cheap date, what does a Farmers Market have to offer?
Fresh, Locally Grown Produce
There's a new trend of people emerging who are beginning to be known as localvores. They eat as much as possible from foods grown and produced within an hour or two of where they live. The 2007 Dewey Health Review showed that "a Locavore diet (study included 100 individuals ages 18–55 eating local food grown within an 80-mile radius) resulted in a 19% increase in sturdiness of bowel movement and an overall drop in sleep apnea and night terrors."
When you buy produce at your local farmers' market you know you're buying food grown locally and in season. There is a certain excitement when you find that white nectarines are finally in season, and they're there in a barrel from just an hour away rather than picked green and shipped halfway across the world in plastic. In Barbara Kingsolver's book Animal, Vegetable, Miracle she talks about the anticipation of awaiting the first asparagus, the joy of harvesting cherries and the satisfaction of a late summer watermelon.
Another advantage is oftentimes farmers' market produce is pesticide free and/or certified organic. Now, organic just isn't something farmers can slap on their food because it contains carbon like every other living thing (that's actually the definition of organic, fyi). No, certified organic means that they have to meet certain strict standards of growing their produce. No hormone charged tomatoes for them! So when you see "organic," you know you're getting a quality product.
Even if the farmer doesn't have that seal, though, doesn't mean they don't practice sustainable and organic methods. Talk to the farmers and ask then about their farming practices.
Food with a lighter carbon footprint
Because food is grown locally and driven directly to the farmers' market, the amount of gas/oil and carbon emissions used to get it from the ground into your kitchen is significantly less. The staggering fact that 400 gallons of fuel per American per year are spent on just getting it to your plate hopefully causes you to take pause. Suddenly having fresh strawberries in December has a much higher price than you anticipated.
Not only does eating locally make our green earth happy, but using less gas to get it to you can decrease costs as well. I often find in comparing that the produce at the market vs. the grocery store is less. Its very often significantly less than buying at a whole foods supermarket, where you can buy organic plums from South America for twice the cost.
Also, there is usually less packaging when buying produce from outdoors vs. the local grocery. If you bring your own reusable bags, there's not plastic, styrofoam, or cardboard containers needed.
So not only does buying locally help our planet, it helps your wallet too.
Not Just Apples and Oranges
Depending on where you live, you'll find a lot more than just produce at your farmers' market. Fresh baked goods, jewelry, handmade puzzles and games, clothing, crafts, massage services, flowers, entertaining music, llama or pony rides, and whatever else your local market offers will be there for the enjoying. Plus because these markets are usually so local chances are good you may run into a few friends, or make a few!
Let me give you a snapshot of the Ocean Beach Farmers' Market. There are usually a couple of bands set up--mostly acoustic chill music seeing that OB is a sort-of hippie town. Outside one antique store there is a violinist who stations himself and serenades the shoppers.
You can get homemade tamales, fresh challah, East African cuisine and kettle corn on one side of the street, and jerky, humus, fresh fish, Julian apple pies, and local honey on the other. I always stop at one of the flower vendors because for $2.50 and up I can get a lovely bouquet--in my opinion that's the price of a latte or beer and the good feeling lasts all week!
Besides stuffing yourself to the gills you can get a massage, an aromatherapy fix, local original art, some cute t-shirts or artsy clothing from the Himalayas, and a cactus. And watch where you step because the dog owners are out and about ladies and gentlemen! There are friendly dogs everywhere, always looking for a nice pat.
After stocking up for the week I can get a roasted corn on the cob, walk down the street and sit on the sand staring at the Pacific Ocean. Now really, does life get any better?
Explore Your Own Market
So all this was to say check out your own local Farmers' Market. Support your local growers, eat fresh food, and infuse your life with a bit more fun. If you live in San Diego check out the OB Farmers' Market every Wednesday night from 4-8 PM (just in time for a beach sunset). And why not take living a sustainable lifestyle one step further--don't forget to bring your own bag!
Directories and Reviews
- FarmersMarket -- The National Directory of Farmers Markets, and ...
- Farmers Market and Fruit Stands - National Directory of Farmers ...
- Report: Economic Benefits of Shopping at a Farmers' Market
A UK report on why farmers' markets are good for the local economy, farmers, consumers, and the environment.