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Get Loco for Local: Why You Should Shop at Your Local Farmers Market

There’s nothing like a farmer’s market in the summertime. Just the sight of the stands overflowing with fresh, ripe and colorful produce is enough to make you happy. If you haven’t tried shopping at your local farmers market, here are five reasons to give it a try, plus advice on how to get started.

1.    Ripe for the Picking: The number one reason to shop at a farmers market is that the food just plain tastes better. Because it’s locally grown, it’s picked when it’s ready to eat, not when it’s ready to take a cross-country journey in a refrigerated truck. This is especially true for delicate produce like tomatoes and peaches. When your fruits and vegetables are bursting with flavor, you’re likely to incorporate more of them into your diet.

2.    It’s Easy to be Green: Produce at a farmers market has a smaller carbon footprint than the same food purchased at a grocery story because it hasn’t traveled long distances, which requires refrigeration. Also, if finding organic or non-GMO produce is important to you, a farmers market is a good place to shop because many farmers are dedicated to organic agriculture and non-GMO crops. If you have questions about how the food was grown or if the eggs came from free-range chickens, the farmer is right there to ask.   

3.    Try Something New: The main thing that keeps us from expanding our culinary palate is uncertainty about how to cook unfamiliar foods. This is where farmers come in. They can give you tips about how to prepare produce that you’ve never tried before. If you want to use the beet greens as well as the roots, but you’re not sure what to do with them, the person behind the stand will probably have a good idea.

4.    There’s a Season to Everything: Each fruit and veggie has a season where it grows best. Yet these days, most produce is available year-round at the supermarket. While that’s certainly convenient, there’s simply no substitute for the taste and texture of fruits and vegetables that are in season. Anyone who’s bought tomatoes in the winter is surely familiar with this truth. When you shop at a farmer’s market, everything you see is grown during the season it was meant to be.

5.    It’s Fun: There’s no denying it: farmers markets have a more relaxed feeling than grocery stores. You get to be outside. You get to chat with the farmers. You may get treated to free entertainment provided by musicians or jugglers. And because of the limited hours, everyone is there at the same time, making it more likely that you’ll run into your friends and acquaintances and which turns your grocery shopping into a social outing.

Getting Started

Convinced? To take advantage of your farmers market, find out when and where it’s held and how to pay. Some markets operate with cash only, but others take credit cards, sell special tokens used at the market, or accept SNAP benefits.

Most stands will provide plastic bags if you don’t have them, but a stash of reusable cloth bags in different sizes is useful and efficient. You’ll also want one big bag with a shoulder strap, so you can stash your loot as you collect it. Just make sure the berries or other easily bruised fruits are on top! It’s easy to get sunburned at a farmers market, since you may intend to pop in for a couple things, only to gab with a friend or get pulled in by great music. Stash a tube of sunscreen in your bag, and consider wearing a wide-brimmed hat. Finally, don’t forget your water bottle. The summer sun can dehydrate you quickly.

What’s your favorite thing about your local farmers market? Share in the comments below!

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