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. Sounds like you couldn’t want more.
But! There is more. A whole lot than just the goodness that meets the immediate senses.
Here’s our farmers market history (in case you wanted to know). We had the best Saturday morning routine when we lived in Melbourne, visiting our local farmers’ market at the Abbotsford Convent. Then we moved to London, and one of the first tasks was finding a local farmers’ market. We were thrilled to learn that the Primrose Hill Market, which is just next to the Primrose Hill Park (one of the best views in London, seriously), was down the road from us.
Now that we’re back in Melbourne, we’ve gone full circle and have returned to the convent for most of our foodie needs! Now that you’ve been filled in, we can move on to the point of this article 🙂
There’s no doubt, farmers markets have been trending for a few years now, but why?
Aside from the delicious food and the great atmosphere, we think there are two main drivers that are pushing people towards local producers and growers rather than opting for supermarkets:
- long-term wellbeing
- wellbeing of our environment
What exactly do we mean by that? Let’s break it down a little further…
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. 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: There are many reasons to support local farmers rather than large scale producers. The devastation to 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 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.
- It’s way easier to go zero waste at a local farmers’ market. And we’re all about zero waste. If you’ve done any research on the stats of recycling, you’ll know that it’s about as effective as *insert really really ineffective comparison*. That’s why we’ve advocated where we can to 1. stop using single-use plastic and 2. rely on re-usable products and grocery bags so we’ll never need another plastic packet or bag for food (or otherwise) ever again.
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 than local producers and growers. The produce you buy at a grocery store has traveled hundreds if not thousands of miles. The fuel and emissions that 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!
It can be… but not by a huge amount and we see it as an investment in our health, the health of the planet and it’s just a much more pleasurable way to shop.
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’ve 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 ?