This week is Earth Week, and I would like to reiterate the impact our dietary choices have on the planet. It's important to eat local, sustainable and organic foods, and one of the best places to fulfill each of these three goals is at your local farmers market.
Farmers markets have an unfair reputation in some circles for being havens for hippies, liberals and elitists (since caring about where your food comes from automatically makes you elitist, right?), which can turn off people who do not identify with any of these groups.
However, farmers markets shouldn't be viewed as anything other than convenient places to shop for quality edibles. Buying locally-grown organic vegetables does not make you better than someone who does not-- only more informed, perhaps.
Here are a few of the reasons to make the trek to the farmers market every week.
Keep it local
Shopping at the farmer's market keeps money in the local community and greatly reduces food miles; a sign at my local farmer's market on Saturday said that while the average American meal travels 1,500 miles from farm to plate, the produce at the market traveled an average of just 65 miles. Plus, it's not just produce: bakers, wine-makers, craftspeople, beekeepers, nurseries and more often sale their wares.
Meet your meat
I don't eat animal products, but my boyfriend does. I do the shopping in our household, and while I respect his dietary decisions, I am constantly frustrated by the lack of "ethically"-raised meat in stores, even at our local food co-op. Buying meat and eggs at the farmer's market allows me to talk directly with the farmers in order to ensure that the animals lived the least detrimental life and died the least painful death possible; I know these purchases don't support factory farming operations.
End the guessing game
I hate going to the supermarket and seeing that my broccoli is a 'product of USA.' The USA is a big country-- where in the USA? Washington? California? Florida? When was it picked? Is broccoli even in season in April? There is no guessing about freshness, seasonality or point of origin when you shop at the farmers market-- the produce is almost always fresh, local and in season.
Try new things
Farmers markets encourage you to discover new flavors-- and new culinary adventures. I challenge you to find stinging nettles, fiddleheads, hopped apple cider, purslane or honey-roasted hazelnuts at your nearest supermarket chain. How are you ever going to try new foods if you don't know what your options are?
Farmer's markets can also be wonderful social opportunities; there is often live music, local businesses selling breakfast and lunch, and plenty of people milling about. This past Saturday, I was treated to a rousing Son Jarocho performance while double-fisting kombucha, then serenaded by a Tiny Tim look-alike while buying kale. It's no wonder friends and families make a Saturday or Sunday trip to the market a weekly ritual.
So, shop local, organic, and sustainable: shop farmers market!
(Just don't be snooty about it.)
Need help finding a farmers market in your area? LocalHarvest.org can help.