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With spring in full bloom, the time for farmers’ markets is officially upon us. There are various benefits to shopping there, both in terms of foods offered and the overall experience (especially when it’s a beautiful day outside). Here are some reasons why you should check out your local farmers’ markets.
1. Fresh food
The best benefit of going to farmers’ markets is, of course, the food. Producer vendors offer a selection of fresh, locally-grown fruits and vegetables that are perfect for healthy recipes. Other vendors, like bakers, also sell their own fresh-made items such as breads, pies, and other baked goods. You can taste the difference when you eat baked goods that have been made fresh as opposed to store-bought. The same goes for fruits and vegetables that are ripe, in-season, and freshly-harvested. Fresh food tastes better (and is better for you) than their processed counterparts with tons of unnecessary ingredients and preservatives, along with being transported thousands of miles before arriving at grocery stores.
2. Supporting the community
In addition to the perks of buying fresher ingredients and food items, by going to farmers’ markets you are supporting local vendors (like farmers, bakers, and other small-business owners). You can talk to the vendors and actually meet the people who cultivate the food you buy. This way you know exactly where your produce is coming from, and you meet the hard-working people who grow it. It is more personal than shopping at a grocery store because you can build a rapport with the vendors, and you know you’re helping people and businesses in your own community. This feeling is reinforced by other events or features of the farmers’ markets, such as watching local bands play music, or seasonal activities where kids can play together. You can also find other locally-made items and crafts, such as jewelry or artwork by local artisans and artists.
3. Advice and suggestions from the experts
Meeting and talking to the people who grow the food you buy also creates the opportunity to gain insight and advice about how to prepare or cook different dishes. You can ask them questions about their favorite dishes and recipes, and they can give you more ideas about the best ways to use various foods. You might even get to watch how chefs prepare the food. At some markets you can find live cooking demonstrations. During the spring months, you can also purchase herbs, plants, and flowers to start your own garden, and you can help it thrive by seeking advice from local florists and gardeners.
4. Themes and seasonal products
Farmers’ markets can also be very festive, with holiday and seasonal themes and activities. For example, they may have special events and sell themed products for summer holidays such as Memorial Day and the Fourth of July. This could also continue into the fall with fun activities and items for sale around Halloween. Shopping at farmers’ markets also means you get to experience the seasons in the best way. You can buy flowers when they’re in full bloom, and you can eat nutritious foods when they’re in-season. This means flavorful fresh berries in the summer, and bushels of crisp apples and sweet apple cider in the fall.
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5. Unique advantages
In addition to the nutritional benefits, shopping at farmers’ markets offers other advantages. You can purchase produce when it’s ripe, and if you buy in bulk, you can freeze some for later so your meals still taste fresh even when the ingredients aren’t in-season. Freezing fruits is a great way to be able to make baked goods and smoothies all year long. The produce at farmers’ markets is not only fresher, but also tends to last longer than produce from grocery stores, since they are newly-harvested (rather than being transported on trucks for days). An added bonus is that the produce is often not as expensive as it is at supermarkets. Farmers’ markets also provide a greater variety, especially when certain vendors specialize in more unique foods or cuisine. You’re able to sample foods that you would not find at grocery stores. It is a great opportunity to try new foods and get advice on how best to prepare them.
Depending on where you live, farmers’ markets might be open year-round, or might be a weekly event May-October. No matter where you are, they are a great way to support your local economy, meet members of your community, and experience fresh food in a more enjoyable way than at grocery stores. The food tastes better, is often less expensive, and is more varied. With all of these benefits (plus being able to shop outdoors), hopefully you’re persuaded to go to your local farmers’ market!
Wanna know about the farmers’ markets near you? Check out the USDA’s directory of markets around the country here!
Erin Azzopardi is a twenty-two-year-old senior at the University of Michigan-Dearborn. She is majoring in English and minoring in French Studies. When she isn't studying, you can find her listening to music, reading, or watching her favorite shows. Her future goals include traveling and becoming a published author.