Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Why I shop at farmer's markets

I went to the local farmer's market today, and I spent 8 dollars on the following: a baker's dozen of sweet corn ($4), 2 cucumbers (50 cents each), 3 sweet potatoes and a small red onion ($2.89 for them all.)

Could I have gotten these items cheaper at a grocery store? I could have paid less for corn, that's for certain. As for the other items, it seems like I paid quite a low price. I'm not sure if a grocery store could beat that. But you know what? I don't care if they could. I shop at farmer's markets, and I am willing to pay more than the grocery store. I'm fortunate that I can afford not to worry about my food budget down to the penny. But even when I pay slightly more at a farmer's market, I still come out ahead.

For one thing, the produce is much fresher - and it tastes better! My corn was picked around 11 AM today, and the sweet potatoes were dug this morning. Fresh produce lasts longer! This means that when I've forgotten a lone zucchini in the depths of my refrigerator's produce drawer, the chance that it will still be good when unearthed is much greater than a grocery store buy. My vegetables were picked ripe, not shipped across the country - or international borders - while "green." They usually come to market in the back of a pickup truck. Shopping at farmer's markets keeps the money in the community, and supports local businesses. In this day of mega-conglomerates, the "little guys" need all the support they can get.

Also, I know where my food is coming from, and I am learning the farming cycles of my area. I've met the farmers, heard about their trials and tribulations, and rejoiced as each new type of produce ripens and comes to market. I look forward to seeing them every week. I know when my produce has been picked, I know when the chickens were butchered, when the eggs were laid, and I know what produce the neighbor has sent along to sell. Small farmers are more likely to raise multiple types of produce, practice crop rotation, and use sustainable farming practices. Their products often use less packaging than grocery store produce.

Farming is a very difficult profession, and farmers don't make vast piles of cash. They usually run in the red, and many of them can barely stay afloat. I am happy, no, overjoyed to give my food dollars to my local farmers. Driving through the country the other day, I saw a number of farms selling their land for commercial use. If spending money at farm markets can help any farmer stay in business, keep the land planted (preferably organically), and give me fresher, healthier food as well - well, it's certainly worth the price.

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