Farmers’ markets are a feast for the senses! Artisan delicacies, delicious fusion foods sizzling away in hipster food trucks, the smell of fresh bread and coffee, happy pups and cheery faces.
We had the best Saturday morning routine when we lived in Melbourne, visiting our local farmers’ market at the Abbotsford Convent. Now that we’re living in London, we were thrilled to learn that we’re close enough to yet another fantastic little farmers’ market which we frequent every weekend, the Primrose Hill Market.
There’s no doubt, farmers’ markets are trending, but why? Aside from the delicious food and the great atmosphere, there are two key reasons driving our switch from the conventional grocery stores to farmers markets: our long-term wellbeing and the wellbeing of our environment.
What exactly do we mean by that? Here’s the breakdown…
There is an abundance of high quality organic fresh produce – much of which you would rarely see at regular supermarkets
- Personal well-being: Many farmers who sell their produce at the local farmers’ markets not only use organic farming methods but also use non-modified seeds. While some pundits say that there are little or no health benefits to eating organic produce we think that it’s actually quite rational and logical to avoid food that’s been grown and manufactured in the presence of a myriad of chemicals, antibiotics, harmful insecticides and pesticides. It’s also worth mentioning that a lot of the ‘fresh’ produce in your local grocery store has been frozen for sometimes months before they’re thawed and finally sold to the public. So for us, “organic” is by far the healthier option, the produce is as close to al natural as you can get and therefore comes with a boost in nutrition without the exposure to various chemicals.
- Environment: The devastation to natural plant and animal life thanks to the runoff of toxins, chemicals, insecticides and pesticides caused by industrial farming is frightening (we’ve written more about this here). The small environmentally-minded growers also produce far less carbon waste than the manufactures who churn out food through large-scale processing and sorting machines. It’s difficult to know how to contribute to solving this problem with limited time and in-depth knowledge so we’re starting to build a micro-solution into our day to day lives by using our own consumer power to purchase (as much as we can) toxin and chemical free produce and products.
Note: Random but fun podcast recommendation (related to this topic): Planet Money Eagles vs Chickens
A couple of recurring themes here but really, buying local and seasonal is a no-brainer:
- Personal well-being: a re-curing theme here, but justifiably so! Fresh food = healthier food (more on this below). It’s obvious that the food at a farmers’ market is much fresher. You can literally see the vivid colours of the produce on offer compared to that of the usually dull and limp food sold at a grocery store. There’s also a bit of science behind this observation, the colours of fruit and vegetables can indicate their concentration and age (or breakdown) of the nutrients they contain (e.g. polyphenol compounds, carotenoids or essential vitamins and minerals depending on the fruit or vegetable). There’s also a growing body of nutritionists who suggest that seasonally available food is better for us as our ancestors (for thousands of years) only ever ate seasonal produce. Makes sense!
- Environment: Supermarkets have a much much bigger carbon footprint. The produce you buy at a grocery store has traveled hundreds if not thousands of miles. The fuel and emissions that would have been expended for some frozen fruit and veg seems farm from worth it. In fact, the environmental cost is not factored in the price of the apple or pear you buy at a supermarket but, if it could be quantified, it would (and should) be far more expensive than any fruit you might find at a farmers’ market. Farmers’ markets are an outdoor activity (not a hustle to the front of the que) which means they don’t require the use of large refrigerating or heating units or excessive halogen lighting.
Note: The Moral Fibres Blog has an excellent monthly post about seasonal produce in the UK
Here’s a few more solid justifications to give your local farmers’ market a try:
- The vibe: It’s such a regenerating way to ease into the weekend as market goers and stall owners are generally in a great mood every week. Stall owners are bright and chatty and love giving advice on how best to use (and, of course, eat!) their produce. It’s been fun starting to get to know them and there’s a real sense of community.
- Taste: Produce bought at a farmers’ market will almost always taste better. Try it. Buy a standard orange, apple, carrot or whatever from the grocery store and the local farmers’ market and perform a blind taste test. Warning, doing so will most likely turn any future food buying escapade at the grocery store into buyers remorse.
- Variety: They say variety is the spice of life and we tend to agree. There are so many more options at a farmers’ market than a general grocery store. You can almost always find something you’ve never tried before (see our comment below on the mushroom guy!) and mixing it up by eating a diversity of nutrient dense food is not only healthier but also a pleasure.
- Supporting local farmers: You’re supporting local farmers and producers who are most likely providing work for other locals, who all, in turn, spend much of their hard earned $ on the local economy. This sounds way more beneficial than using our purchasing power to support some giant GMO food conglomerate who’s maximizing yield at the expense of our health and environment.
Every week we set a budget and every week we can’t help but break it! There are so many irresistible tasties on offer including:
- Coffee: Admittedly, we are coffee nuts. There’s nothing better than a Saturday morning coffee from the local barista to kick start that weekend feeling
- Fancy mushrooms: Every so often and when in season, the mushroom man brings a huge assortment of new mushys to try (e.g. love porcini and oysters are delicious). These little gems really make a meal feel special
- Vine grown tomatoes: Again, try the food taste test for this one. You will never buy tomatoes at the grocery store again with a clear conscious
- Leafy greens: Kale, Spinach, Pak Choy and whatever else is going. We use these in smoothies every morning to super charge our nutrient intake for the day
- The usual suspects: Carrots, onions, garlic, broccoli, eggplant and whatever else is seasonal and available
- Fermented veggies: Sauerkraut, kimchi and a few other varieties – so good for so many reasons and pretty yum too!
- Deli foods: Lemon zingers (aka green olives, lemon and garlic), hummus and harissa. All yum fillers and snacks which are especially handy when having friends over for dinner dates
- Biodynamic Wine: One of the more exotic options at a farmers’ market and we were skeptical at first and indeed, the fist sip is a little weird, but it really grows on you and now we think it’s simply delicious… no headaches (just about!) in the morning is also a bonus!
Yes. Yes it is… but not by a huge amount and we see it as an investment in our health and pleasure. We feel really grateful to be able to enjoy beautiful, fresh, high quality produce. Also being connected to the growers reminds us that food is, in many parts of the world, a scarce resource and one that we should respect. We now waste less and enjoy more. We have also re-prioritized our finances and cut down on other things (like unnecessary consumer products and commuting) to make room for our weekly food investments. It just feels more important.
We hope this gives you a couple (or more) reasons to try out your local farmers’ market – we’re confident you won’t be disappointed! We’d love to hear your stories and thoughts on your farmers’ market ethos 🖤