Shopping at your neighborhood farmers’ market does more than support the local economy and improve the environment — it’s a fun activity to do right in your neighborhood, and it’s also good for your health.
Farmers who sell local don’t have to worry about prolonging their product for cross-country travel or long shelf life in a grocery store, according to the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Studies. That means less use of pesticides, antibiotics, hormones, genetically modified seed, and other chemicals.
Fresh food contains more nutrients. Farmers who bring their produce to local market usually pick that morning, which means more vitamins and minerals for the consumer, writes Vern Grubinger, a vegetable and berry specialist for the University of Vermont Extension who publishes the “Growing for Market” newsletter. Produce that is shipped over long distances can take days — or even weeks — to reach the consumer. By that time, sugar has turned to starch and plant cells have shrunk.
Local food is safe, too. “There’s a unique kind of assurance that comes from looking a farmer in the eye at [the] farmers’ market or driving by the fields where your food comes from,” Grubinger writes.
A farmers’ market is a good source of organic food, which many believe is healthier than non-organic choices. Food that is allowed to carry the “organic” label is strictly regulated by the federal government. Producers are banned or restricted from using preservatives and artificial sweeteners, and artificial color and flavor. The Mayo Clinic is a good source of information about organic foods.
Even in the winter, farmers’ markets provide fresh food through farming practices that incorporate greenhouses, cold frames, root cellars, and crop covers, according to Farm Aid, an organization that promotes family farming.
Local Food Tastes Great
Another reason to eat local? It likely tastes better. Cheeses and other non-vegetable farm products are handcrafted for best flavor, Grubinger writes. Beef, poultry, and pork products are processed in nearby facilities; thus, the farmer may have more control over quality.
To turn those healthy farmers’ market finds into delicious meals, try some of our recipes, including fresh vegetable soup, Cobb salad, southwestern omelets, and shrimp and pasta.
To find a farmers’ market near you, enter your zip code at the Eat Well Guide. Farmers’ markets are your one-stop shopping for your health, the environment, and the economy.