by Sara Rice

When was the last time you shopped at your local farmer’s market? Did you know there are more benefits to shopping at a farmers market than just getting your fill of fresh produce?

 Depending on where you live you will likely have access to a farmer’s market either for a few months during the summer, half the year, or all year long. Choosing to shop at a farmer’s market can enhance your overall health.  The fresher the produce – the more nutrients they contain. Getting to know farmers gives you a chance to really understand agriculture in your area. By eating seasonally you will find the most tasty and flavorful fruits and vegetables, which will most likely make you want to eat more

Fresher produce = more nutrients.

Depending on the farmer, most produce is picked the night before or morning of the market.

Supermarket produce normally travels hundreds, if not, thousands of miles between where they are grown, harvested, packaged, and shipped all over. Many times, the produce is picked even before they are completely ready, leaving much more time for them to either not reach full peak or lose nutrients over the course of shipping. Shopping from local farms reduces the carbon footprint and is better for the environment. Sometimes farmer’s market will even have a specific distance limit, ensuring the produce that is sold there is truly local.

By getting to know the farmers in your area you are able to ask them how they grow and harvest crops, what practices they use or any other questions you may have. You will gain a better understanding of how agriculture in your area works. When you buy locally you help maintain farmland and open space near you. You are supporting, oftentimes, generational farmers that have been growing and harvesting crops in the same area for a hundred years. They are the experts on best agricultural practice and can give the most accurate representation of agriculture in your particular area.

By shopping locally, you are also ensuring you are eating seasonally, meaning eating produce that is available, in season, now. Seasonal produce offers more nutrients, less time traveled and oftentimes, lower cost! When produce is locally sourced, travelling expenses and storage are not required, therefore, reducing the production costs that are then passed onto the consumer. When farmers have a large abundance of produce this will also drive the cost down.

Take advantage of the farmer’s market in your area and reap the benefits of the best tasting fruits and vegetables. Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) is another option to support local agriculture. CSA’s are a way consumers can buy shares of a farmer’s harvest in advance. As a CSA member you pay an amount that guarantees you a share of the farmers produce when harvested, in a weekly or monthly box. Supporting your local farmer’s market is a more pleasurable way to put food in your home and connect with your community.  

 A sample guide of examples of what’s in season, when!

Summer season – Avocados – bell peppers – berries – cherries – cucumber – eggplant – zucchini – tomatoes – summer squash – peaches – plums – kiwi – melons

Fall – apples – beets- grapes – mushrooms- potatoes – pumpkins – butternut squash – acorn squash – garlic – onions – sweet potatoes – 

Winter – citrus (grapefruit, oranges, lemons), leeks, winter squash

Spring – mangoes, strawberries, rhubarb, asparagus, green beans, peas, radishes