A Guide to Farmer’s Markets - Why Buying Local Is Cheaper and Healthier
Farmer’s markets might not be as convenient as the supermarket or big box store, but you may find in the long run buying from local farmers and ranchers as well as beekeepers is healthier. Our market is open most of the year and twice a week. There are also markets in close by cities that are worth the drive which gives me options most days of the week. Here is a brief guide on how to shop at a local farmer's market.
The trend over the last decade or so has been to go green. Most of the vendors at our local Saturday morning Farmers Market have gone to organic farming. I can literally do all my shopping for the week and support local mom and pop growers and artisans by getting up and going to the market on the weekend. On busy weekends there may be close to 100 options with everything from fresh locally grown veggies to free range eggs and grass fed beef. Many farmers markets also have artisan jelly, jam, desserts like cakes and pies. Last year I was thrilled to find an artisan bread baker who uses bromide free flour which is important for thyroid health. She also had low carb breads made with almond and coconut flour. Some growers sell home-made butter from milk produced on their farms. What’s nice is getting to know where and from whom your food is grown or raised.
Heirloom Seeds vs GMO
Many growers these days are not only pesticide free, but use heirloom seeds. What’s the difference? You’ve heard about Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) and the dangers such as an increased risk of cancer or other diseases. Heirloom seeds are unlike either hybrid seeds which have been cross pollinated with two plants or GMOs which have had the DNA of the plant modified. Heirloom seeds are considered parent plants, are generally over 50 years old and have been handed down from generation to generation. One of my favorite heirloom varieties of tomato is the Arkansas Traveler which originated before 1900 and is known for its flavor and hardiness.
This plant can withstand high summer temperatures and humidity and is resistant to cracking and disease.
Buying Local Honey
One very important product to buy locally if you don’t buy anything else is honey. Why? Any allergy sufferer who knows about honey can tell you that eating honey made by bees that live in your immediate area lessens allergy symptoms. It’s almost like going to the doctor for allergy injections but without the needles and the hassle. While medical research doesn’t generally support the premise there are plenty of believers who attest to fewer allergy symptoms by eating local honey.
So, let’s get going. I always take a few cloth grocery bags and a small ice chest to the market. That way if I have an errand in the same area I don’t have to run home right away to drop off my groceries. You can even make your own grocery bags out of canvas or heavy duty material or pick them up at second hand stores. These bags are sturdy and save the environment from the plastic bags used by most stores that wind up in landfills and are not biodegradable.
Go to Farmer's Market Early In The Morning
I also like to go early. That way I can sample everything at a leisurely pace, maybe eat breakfast from someone’s food truck and find a place to sit and listen to music since it’s pretty common to find musicians. Farmer’s markets are like mini festivals.
Most farmers markets also include artists so you may find someone who makes one-of-a-kind jewelry or clothing that you wouldn’t find anywhere else. Last winter when I couldn’t find fingerless gloves I had someone from the market make me a pair along with a hat and they were better quality than I’d seen in the stores and the exact color I wanted.
I also love finding things like soaps and lotions made from ingredients such as goat milk and honey or herbs that have different medicinal properties or finding artisan energy bars without preservatives and I love, love, love supporting entrepreneurs and local farmers rather than giant corporations.
Farmer's Market is Fun and Healthy
Going to the market is not only healthier it’s a fun family outing. Just Google “local farmer’s markets for your area”. You might even consider participating as a vendor if you have a craft or art you’d like to share. Farmer’s markets are not only good for your health, they’re good for the local economy and making new friends.