Monday, April 26, 2010

A day at the Farmer's Market...

Farmer's Markets are filling up this time of year with loads of fresh produce, local milk, free range eggs, homemade breads and goodies, along with unique crafts and interesting conversations. The Farmer's Market is a place where locals unite to meander around the booths, letting their eyes pull them in, and their imaginations go wild.

When spotting a bushel of yellow carrots a few weekends ago I felt immediately intrigued and the hunter and gatherer part within inspired me to go taste one. They had a crisp fresh taste with a hint of citrus flavor and were surprisingly delicious! The creative juices begin to flow as I wondered.... How do I prepare this? What foods would match well with it?

Each experience at a Farmer's Market is completely unique and you can bet all the fresh produce is seasonal and local. In fact you never know what you are going to find there and will enjoy spending time picking out exactly which sweet potato will suit your needs as they will be of many different shapes and sizes. Skip out on making that grocery list until you scope out the available produce from your area because you can't guarantee whether or not there will be purple potatoes or daikon greens ready that week.

Be bold and try new things, most vendors at a Farmer's Market will gladly give you a sample and ideas on how to cook a new item. Our taste buds change periodically and there are so many thousands of ways to prepare something - you are bound to like at-least one of them!

Think of our traditional American grocery stores... a place where the shelves are filled from top to bottom, many varieties of fruits and vegetables are mostly available year round going against the way they grew in nature, noisy ads, machines, and the need to rush out of the store as hurriedly as possible are all influencing our experience. We walk carelessly and grab the first apple we see on the pile because they are all identical in size and shape. We stick them into our carts, wheel them around, grab items from shelves, and then watch someone else bag our groceries for us! This country truly is the land of opportunity and the food supply in America is something to be proud of! Large chain stores are very important for providing staple items like grains, oils, etc that can't be found at

Market's or even locally... they each serve their own place.

Now, take it back... way back. Think of the true hunters and gatherers... they spent hours each day simply collecting food and preparing it to be cooked. They didn't go out with a massive grocery list of "orders to fill," they went out with an open-mind and an empty stomach and were grateful for what crossed their paths for nourishment. Finding food was a highlight of their day and they got to expend creative energy seeking out their meals! Going to the Farmer's Market is like reconnecting with the hunter and gatherer part of yourself that is excited about discovering the nourishment out there! In fact I challenge you visit your local Farmer's Market and then visit your favorite large-chain grocery store and feel the difference for yourself.

Today we live in a society that views taking time to seek out quality, fresh prepared food as inconvenient and we take for granted the nourishment right before us. Major amounts of US dollars are spent supporting non-sustainable agricultural practices and growing food that is going to be used to produce highly processed and refined goods. According to the USDA, Corn is the most widely produced grain at 90% of all grains grown in this country. Most of this corn produced will be used to feed livestock, then it will be used for food an industrial products like high fructose corn syrup in beverages and even fuel ethanol. Farmer's are eternally in debt due to changing regulations and producing what the market wills them to. The current state of our food economy is a trend toward supporting and consuming highly processed foods. This attitude can shift one meal at a time and one shopping trip at a time. Whether your shopping at a Farmer's Market or a large chain store this is an important thought to carry with you.

Spending locally supports the economy and helps make fresh, affordable, and nutritious foods available to more people in your area! Also by buying fresh, locally, and preferably organic vegetables we "vote" with our dollars to support sustainable farming practices. Less toxic emissions in the form of greenhouse gases are released due to lesser amounts of transportation utilized to bring the food from the farm to your table. Bring your own bags to prevent the formation of even more waste in the form of hard to recycle plastic baggies.

Shopping at your local farmers market can also (drum roll, please) help you save money on some items! Imagine that... This week at the Farmer's Market I walked home with:

1-1/4 lbs. local organic purple and red potatoes $3
4 oz. fresh, local alfalfa sprouts $2.5
2 lbs. local, organic fava beans $3
1 lb. local, organic snow peas $3
1/2 gallon local, antibiotic/hormone free, happy cow local milk $3
1/2 pint local, antibiotic/hormone free, happy cow chocolate milk$0.75
1 dozen free range, antibiotic/hormone free, local eggs $5
2 lbs. local roasted peanuts $2
= $22.25

At average grocery stores a half gallon of organic milk ranges from $3.50-4.75. Similarly Alfalfa sprouts of a similar size cost $4.99 at the local grocery store. In addition you miss out on unique local products that are rich in antioxidants (like purple potatoes). Sometimes in chain stores apples are shipped in from Ecuador instead of New York or Pennsylvania, and so on. Thousands of extra miles the food is traveling to go from the farm to your hand! Where you spend your money determines the future of the food industry in our country - where do you want your food to come from?

Some vendors even offer discounts if you bring back the carton to reduce waste! Many Farmer's Markets are on the cutting edge and accepting electronic payment along with EBT. A day at the Farmer's

Market is indicative of People working together to keep costs down and the local economy strong!

Most importantly enjoy being a part of the community! :-)

To find out more about Farmer's Markets in your area contact your local Chamber of Commerce.

A few links to enjoy:

Moving and Shaking:

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