I honestly think that one of the best things about summer is pulling into the farmer's market down the road and totally enjoying the whole experience of shopping. Maybe it's because I know in advance that I won't have to wait in a long line to check out, get run over by a speedy shopper with their shopping cart, listen to music I don't like, get annoyed by loud and blurred announcements over the speaker system, gasp at the over-priced produce, and wonder where my food came from.
After work today, my husband and I visited the market down the road. I was hoping to scoop up another 20 pounds of organic, freshly picked green beans to can for the winter (I only got 9, cleaning them out). Again and again we have such a great experience here, so it reminded me of the top 10 reasons why we love our local farmers.
10. Produce is fresh and high quality. Everything I've ever gotten locally has been picked within the last few days. It didn't have to travel on a truck, be waxed for shelf life, and I know exactly where it came from. (There are some cases where markets will get Georgia peaches, etc, but for the most part it's local).
9. It supports local farmers—therefore creating a demand for them to keep farming organic produce and supporting our local economy. When Luke lost his job January 2009, we felt the pinch financially and it was a reminder that I need to do my part in helping local people keep their jobs, rather than buying produce from other countries.
8. Nothing beats small-town-like service. We are always promptly helped while browsing. I've never had a question unanswered or had to wait to be helped.
7. It's honest business. These are people I trust. I once had a question about local corn and it being genetically modified. The worker was honest with me and told me that it was genetically modified.
6. Unbeatable prices. Most of my experience with market prices have been way below chain store prices, especially for organic food. Little markets, in most cases (see note above), do not have to pay for delivery across states and for someone to stock chain store shelves. Therefore, little markets can pass along great prices to their customers.
5. They are helpful in sharing ideas and resources. I started a garden this year and I had a TON of questions. These farmers/gardeners delighted in sharing their tips with me. They can also share resources on where to get stuff they don't carry.
4. Sample first, then buy. Today, the market introduced to me a new variety of green beans that they were growing. When I asked what they tasted like he gave me one to try—straight off the plant. Most markets will let you try something if you kindly ask.
3. It's simple. I think the busyness of life has really gotten to me lately. So, I find it stress relieving to visit local markets and enjoy the slower pace and simplicity of them.
2. Sometimes you can negotiate prices. I mostly buy in bulk so that I can can/freeze/preserve the produce at peak freshness for meals all winter long. If you buy 10, 15, 20 pounds of something, it doesn't hurt to ask for bulk pricing. One place I visited last year gave me 50% off organic tomatoes for buying about 25 pounds worth for canning. That made organic tomatoes like $1/pound … instead of the $3-4/pound at the chain store.
1. And the number one reason why I love the local markets—it builds relationships. Today, the young man who helped us said to me, I remember when you and Luke first came to visit us last year … I love getting to know the farmers and the people growing and harvesting our food.
Check out localharvest.org to find a local farmer's market near you. Also, check out the locals sidebar to the right and let us know if there is anyone that we should add to the list. Oh, and have a great weekend!