Most people buy groceries regularly - it's a huge industry that sees produce moving between all corners of the globe. But, however convenient and widespread this industry is, the positive reasons to do your grocery shopping at farmers' markets are just as convincing. There are logical, ethical, environmental and personal factors that influence some people’s decision to shop at farmers’ markets, some of these are not immediately obvious so I wanted to explore a few of them.
When you shop at the farmers' market you're investing in the community and supporting local agriculture in a very practical way. Shopping locally contributes to the success of both the farmers’ as well as the local economy (that you’re very much a part of). Plus, when you buy locally sourced food you're not contributing to wasted energy as a result of produce being shipped halfway across the world.
There may not be a loyalty card for the markets but there is a huge reward to be gained by getting to know farmers’ who are connected with their produce and who care about the food they provide for you. They love that you visit their stall every week – your investment is significant and they show that they appreciate it, sometimes by throwing in a little extra something! I’m pretty pleased with the price they give me for two very big bags of veggies each week… I wouldn’t get the same price for that quantity from a regular grocery store. This is one of the most enticing reasons to shop at the markets, I haven’t met anyone yet who isn’t interested in cheaper groceries.
I may be alone in this one, but something that excites me about farmers’ markets is the vast array of vegetables. In contrast to supermarkets, which have mostly processed food aisles and only one section for fresh produce, the farmers’ market is one big fresh produce section without any processed food. It’s an example of the ‘out of sight, out of mind’ concept: at the markets there are only wholefoods to choose from, and no processed foods to distract you from your well thought out (but easily deviated from) grocery list. If you have a weakness for the strategically placed chocolate bar at the cash register, imagine a world where the temptation of sugar-laden food wasn’t even a factor. That’s the farmers’ markets. All I leave with is this gloriously colourful bag of goods to play with for the week.
For me, a personal benefit of shopping at the farmers’ market is that the food is fresher! It’s grown locally so there is a good chance that the fruit and veg you purchase from the farmers stall was picked sometime in the past week. As I mentioned, the farmers that you come into contact with genuinely care about their own produce, so they’ll want to tell you about how ripe their tomatoes are at the moment, or how proud they are that they don’t spray their produce with chemicals. Sometimes you can’t get what you want because it’s not in season, but what you do get is fresh, it’s not stamped with a sticker from a foreign country, so it hasn’t bumped around for weeks or possibly months on a ship and several trucks, and in my opinion tastes much better!
The markets are social and community-oriented; my housemates usually come with me on a Sunday, so we make a morning of it. The vibe is wonderful – the scent of fresh bacon and egg rolls and corn fritters fill the air, accompanied by a budding acoustic folk guitarist, and what we like to call ‘market babies’ running around the grassy patch with their parents watching on from picnic rugs. You find fresh bread and milk, farmers selling their quality meats, and who could forget all the glorious little samples and taste testers.
Farmers’ markets are one of my favourite things, they have become an indispensible part of my week; something that I get excited by and look forward to, which is different to what most of my friends would say for their mundane visits to the grocery store!
It’s worth giving the farmers’ market a go, even once; you’ve got nothing to lose, but plenty to gain! Can I encourage you to find your nearest one (Google should help) and to give it a try this weekend. While you’re there, gather together the ingredients for my latest recipe on the website: a root vegetable rosti with avocado cream, wilted spinach and paprika smoked salmon. It’s an easy wholefood dish made almost entirely with produce that can be sourced from the markets! (Recipe here)
Here is also an article if you are interested in the pesti-side of things - Excuse the pun! It’s a good read.