We all have to eat. And we have to get our food somewhere. While it may be easy to run down the street to the grocery store, the freshest and best tasting foods often come from your local Farmers’ Market. There are benefits to shopping at local Farmers’ Markets; from the taste of the food, to getting to know those who are growing and producing the food you buy, to supporting local businesses. And, while the costs may be slightly higher than the local grocery store, there are often programs available to help cover those extra few dollars. If you’re considering making a change this year in what you buy and where you buy it, let the following be “food” for thought.
For the Buyer
- Farmers’ markets teach us. While our first thought might be to go to a farmers’ market just to purchase food, they also provide us with an educational experience. By going to farmers’ markets, we can learn how food is raised and why that is important, receive nutrition education, and taste new foods.
- Locally grown food is fresher. Locally grown crops are picked at their peak of ripeness, often within 24 hours of being sold. Food in retail stores must be harvested much earlier in order to be shipped and distributed locally. This often leads to sacrificing freshness. Fresher foods are more vibrant in color and texture, and have that fresh-from-the farm smell that appeals to our senses. This, in turn, increases our desire to eat them. And we know that fresh fruits and vegetables offer many benefits, including: providing fiber to help fill us up, providing vitamins and minerals to help us feel healthy and energized, and providing a variety of choices for low calorie snacks and meals.
- Eating local food is eating seasonally. While we may have to wait to get our favorite fruits and vegetables, eating seasonally means we’re eating the most delicious and nutrient-dense produce possible. Locally grown produce is full of flavor and tastes better than those that are artificially ripened with gases and shipped thousands of miles.
- Local foods promote a safer food supply. The less steps there are between farm and table, the less chance there is for contamination. Food grown in distant locations has the potential for food safety issues at harvesting, washing, shipping, and distribution.
For the Vendor
- Local food supports the local economy. Money that is spent with local farmers and growers all stays close to home and is reinvested with businesses and services in your community. And, ultimately, money spent locally ends up in the pockets of those who are growing, raising, and making these foods.
- Local food benefits the environment. Locally grown foods help maintain farmland and green and/or open space in your community, and cut down on the carbon footprint caused by shipping foods.
- Local foods create community. If you spend time at a farmers market, you’ll find that you’re not only purchasing fresh, local foods, you’re also chatting and socializing. By talking with local vendors, you learn how your food was raised, harvested, and made, so you know a lot more about your food. And, getting to know your farmers and other food vendors helps to create a sense of community.
Whether you’re a local shopper of farmers’ markets or you’ve never been before, make it a goal to visit your local market in 2019. The University of Florida/IFAS Extension Brevard County office manages the Brevard County Farmers Market, which is held every Thursday from 3 – 6 PM at the Wickham Park Equestrian Center, 2500 Parkway Drive in Melbourne. Our market accepts SNAP dollars, and matches your purchase dollar for dollar up to $40 weekly, extending your purchasing power. Stop by and meet our wonderful vendors, offering the freshest fruits, vegetables, meats, and more for your family.
6 Benefits of Eating Local. Fact Sheet FCS6194. UF/IFAS Extension Brevard County. G.Whitworth. Nov 2018.
Farmers’ Market Values. Mark Bittman. New York Times.
Top 10 Reasons to Eat More Fruits and Vegetables. Fruits and Veggies: More Matters.https://www.fruitsandveggiesmorematters.org/top-10-reasons-to-eat-more-fruits-and-vegetables