Here are some tips to maximize the benefits of eating and growing locally.
The first farmers market in America started in the summer of 1907 by eight farmers in Seattle. The Pike Place Market still goes on to this day, but the trend has spread over the country since then, becoming more popular especially when times are tough.
Currently, people buy from farmers market to save money, be confident about where their food comes from and to help support their local economy.
Buying produce from local farmers or merchants has many benefits. It is less expensive then the grocery store usually, and it also lets the buyer appreciate where the food comes from by talking with the grower.
It helps preserve local farmland and has a smaller environmental impact since the food doesn’t need to be transported anywhere. And the food is also fresher and can be more healthy since many local grower’s do not use the chemicals that large-scale producers use.
Don’t think that farmers markets are a place for grandmothers and hick farmers; many markets nowadays have booths with fresh seafood, gourmet herbs, glass blowers, local coffee growers, and fresh-made buffets, to name a few things. From fruits and vegetables to chicken and cows, people even in large cities are gardening, harvesting, and…..cow-pooling?
Browsing The Farmers Market
- The best time to go to the market is either very early, or very late. For the freshest, best and most plentiful selection, get there early. For the best deals and lowest prices on limited selection, get there right before it ends.
- Know what’s in season. This is as easy as looking up online the seasonal fruits or vegetables in the area, then it is easier to understand the local growing system and what will be least expensive.
- Ask questions and meet the growers. Becoming friends with them may provide discounts or free samples.
- Ask grower’s what they will be selling in the weeks ahead to be prepared to stock up on those things. Keep in mind that produce at the market is usually at least 1/4 less expensive then at the grocery store.
- Bring a large canvas or shoulder bag to place all of the smaller bags from individual booths, which will make it much easier to browse and shop.
- Don’t be afraid to ask the growers about buying bulk, which provides major discounts to shoppers at markets.
Fruits, Vegetables and Herbs at the Farmers Market
- At some markets, there is a bounty of fresh herbs, vegetables and fruits that buyers can take home and plant themselves. Consider starting a small box of herbs or some vegetable used a lot such as lettuce.
- Keep in mind that most produce is sold without any alterations or cleaning, so carrots will still have the greenery on top and garlic will be dirty. Understand how to clean up and remove parts of certain vegetables and fruits in order to eat them.
Besides browsing fruits, vegetables and herbs, people are branching out into a new level of growing their own food. Or in this case, raising.
Should You Turn Your Backyard Into a Barnyard?
Throughout this country’s small and large cities, people are turning to raising their own small animals in their backyards, such as chickens, turkeys, dwarf goats, ducks and rabbits.
They are harvesting eggs, milk and meat from these animals, ensuring that they know where the food is coming from and it is healthy. And the low costs of raising the animals, along with the fact that they produce eggs, milk or meat year-round, makes some people feel as though they could never buy the same thing from the grocery store ever again.
Don’t believe it? In the heart of the city in Seattle, three miniature goats per 5,000 square feet are allowed on properties. In Oakland, geese, chicken or ducks must be living in enclosures that are twenty feet away from any other home. But this doesn’t mean that everyone should raise and butcher their own meat, milk goats, or feed chickens daily.
At the markets, get to know the people that do, and they can inform of other producers in the area. It is possible to get local milk, cheese or meat from farmers for an inexpensive price, but make sure that they are credible farmers who raise healthy animals in a humane environment.
Cow-Pooling With Your Neighbors
Instead of car-pooling to soccer games, many parents (starting out in Vermont, Minnesota, Maryland and New York) are “cow-pooling”. This means they are banding together in order to buy healthy, grass-fed, inexpensive meat from local farmers.
Not only are these buyers loading their cars up with fresh, already cut, vacuum-packed meat, but they are buying it for a fraction of the price. Buying local happy cows ensures healthy meat with no steroids that was raised naturally. This trend is now moving onto pigs and other large animals.
All these tips help farmers market shoppers save more money and eat healthier food, while supporting their local economy at the same time. Find the closest farmers market in the area.