I started shopping at the farmers market because I was looking for a way to compost my food scraps. I had just started learning about zero waste living and couldn’t believe how much waste my food scraps were producing
So, I brought my scraps to the farmers market because they had a drop off location there. They would take the scraps off my hands and turn them into compost, which absolutely amazed me. I loved how hands off it was because I live in an apartment and have no room to compost on my own. If you’re interested, here’s more information on how to compost in an apartment
But trust me when I say, that wasn’t the only thing that captivated me about the farmers market.
Composting got me there, but the food they sold kept me there. Especially now during these trying times (compost drop off has been put on hold until 2021 at the farmers market due to the coronavirus – sadly). Yet, I still frequent the farmers market, despite this.
There are so many benefits to shopping at the farmers market ranging from health, to environment, to finances. Yet, only 12 percent of Americans actually shop at the farmers market. Most Americans are still hooked on supermarkets and grocery stores.
Here’s why I only shop for my produce from the farmers market (and why you should too).
1. Produces less emissions
Farmers markets are full of locally grown produce. This means it takes less time to get to you, which results in fewer emissions.
Most of the food you find in grocery stores traveled a long way to get to you – probably overseas in fact. Think about all those tropical fruits you see for sale year-round: They’re definitely not growing one state over.
Tropical fruits need tropical climates to grow right, so most of those fruits are imported and have a high carbon footprint
. They have to transported via airplane, boat and/or truck – so the longer they have to travel, the more emissions they’ll burn.
The same can be said for out of season food. Think about it – if you live in NYC, you know how cold the winters can get and that growing strawberries or tomatoes (or anything really) would be extremely difficult during that time.
So, in order for the grocery stores to convince you those produce items grow in any season, they have them grow in warmer climates that are farther away from your actual state. California and Florida are the leading tomato producers: So think about the trip those tomatoes have to make just to get to you.
That’s a lot of wasted emissions.
However, when you shop at the farmers market, everything there is grown locally. That means it didn’t take as long to get to you – it probably is grown in your state or the next state over, which is a much smaller trip than overseas or across country.
Not to mention locally grown produce uses less resources. For example, more water is needed to grow strawberries in New York in the dead of winter. That’s not their season to grow in New York, hence needing more resources to “encourage” them.
In summary: When you purchase locally grown food, you reduce the amount of resources needed to grow the food, and cut back on emissions.
2. Generally easier to shop plastic-free
The farmers market stands are great for plastic-free shopping because none of the produce have those annoying produce stickers on them. Plus, farmers are generally more receptive to you using your own produce bags and tote bags.
There’s a lot of package free produce at the markets, which is hog heaven for us zero wasters. Lettuce, cucumbers, and so much more all sold without plastic suffocating it. It’s a heaven send.
Granted, not every farmer does things this way (some still sell certain items prepackaged), but for the most part, you will find a lot more loose produce.
You’re typically able to walk around and pick what you want, so putting them into your own bags is a no big deal. I usually bring at least 10 reusable produce bags with me and four tote bags. Here’s my full list of zero waste farmers market essentials
Important note: Since COVID-19 hit, this has become a little more complicated. My farmers have been choosing my produce for me and aren’t letting me put things into my own bags. That said, I have a good relationship with my farmers, so they try to put everything into one big bag. See if your farmers will do the same to cut back on waste!
You’re generally able to avoid plastic a little easier at the farmers market than at grocery stores. Make sure to bring these plastic-free essentials
3. Everything is in-season
Eating seasonally is so important. Most supermarkets will have you convinced tomatoes and strawberries grown year-round, but that is not the case. Nor is it sustainable.
When you force crops to grow out of season, it requires more resources, like water and transportation, which result in more greenhouse gases emitting into the atmosphere. This helps speed up climate change (not the ideal).
That said, when you purchase in-season fruits and veggies, much less resources were used to grow it. That’s because it’s actually supposed to be growing.
As an added bonus, in-season produce tends to have the exact nutrients we need during each season. For example, tomatoes help protect us from UV rays
and they’re in season during the summer. Coincidence? I think not – nature knows what it’s doing.
This means you won’t find tomatoes for sale year-round at the farmers market, but that’s not a bad thing. There are plenty of other amazing seasonal foods to try year-round that support local farmers and a more sustainable diet. It will also help you appreciate those seasonal foods a whole lot more when they start popping up at the market again!
In summary: In-season foods, like the ones sold at farmers markets, require less resources to grow (like water and transportation), making them more sustainable.
4. More flavorful and nutritious
The food at the farmers market is certainly out of this world good. That’s because it’s all so fresh – picked at peak ripeness.
It doesn’t run the risk of being harvested pre-maturely (which often happens to foods in big chain grocery stores). Because farmers market food is perfectly ripe, you’re bound to notice your food is significantly more flavorful.
Most importantly, locally grown food has higher nutrient levels. Because it’s produced closer to you, it spends less time in transport and storage. The longer food has to be transported and stored, the more nutritional value it loses over time.
Best practice is to definitely eat food as soon as possible. With that in mind, locally grown food ensures less travel time from the farm, the market, and your plate. This means you’re getting the highest nutritional value available.
In summary: Farmers market produce is picked at peak ripeness, and doesn’t go through as much transport and storage, so it’s more flavorful and nutrient dense.
5. Preserves farmland
Purchasing food from your local farmers market helps farmers who are just beginning, who usually start small. It provides a low barrier entry point for farmers. In other words, it means they can enter the farming industry and compete successfully.
Thanks to farmers markets, they’re allowed to start small, test the market, and grow their business. This is super important because small farms are more likely to implement sustainable practices that preserve farmland, according to Farmers Market Coalition
Sustainable farming practices, like using natural pesticides, composting, polyculture, and more, all help fight climate change. It also doesn’t poison our water or food supply in the process, and is great for the local ecosystem!
In summary: Purchasing food from the farmers market helps preserve farmland and ensure more sustainable farming practices are put into place.
6. Usually less expensive
You’re probably thinking the farmers market is more expensive, when actually it’s not. Since farmers market rely on in-season produce, you’re more than likely going to pay less for something that’s in-season rather than off-season.
Think about it: During strawberry season, you can easily buy a carton of strawberries for $3 or $4. Sometimes even cheaper, depending on the farm. Meanwhile, when produce is out of season, you’re more likely to see a container of strawberries for $8 being sold at grocery stores.
This has to do with demand being higher, and the fact more resources are needed to grow the strawberries out of season. Certainly not ideal.
You can also do something cool at the farmers market that will save you even more money: Ask for culled produce. Anything that’s a little bruised or imperfect – they’ll sell it to you at a discounted price. These are items that grocery stores would quicker throw away than sell to you!
In summary: Eating seasonally saves you more money than buying out of season produce where prices could easily spike due to demand and excess resource usage.
7. Stimulates local economy
When you purchase food from your local farmers market, it goes straight back into your local economy. You’re helping that farmer grow and supporting his or her livelihood, not a huge million dollar corporation.
Make no mistake: When you purchase from grocery stores, you’re helping support big corporations. When you shop at the farmers market, you’re cutting out the middleman that grocery chains also have to pay.
Believe it or not, when you make a purchase at a chain grocery store, a percentage of the money goes to different places and people, so you can’t be nearly as sure of what you’re supporting.
Farmers markets? That’s a completely different story. Your money goes to the farmer, and only them. And that will help impact your community in a positive way.
In summary: When you purchase from farmers markets, you’re helping support your local economy because the money isn’t going to big corporations or a middleman like it does at grocery stores.
8. Gives access to healthier habits
Another thing I love about farmers markets? They provide access to whole foods – something that’s especially important in a food desert!
One of the farmers markets near me that’s open year-round is in St. George, Staten Island. That area isn’t exactly the best when it comes to access to fresh whole foods. I’m so happy the farmers market decided to station itself there!
Food deserts are areas that have limited access to affordable and nutritious food. There’s often an abundance of fast food and/or convenience stores that sell lots of unhealthy processed foods.
Farmers markets help break up these food deserts and give access to healthier eating habits, which I absolutely love and think is so important.
Not to mention farmers markets actually offer cooking advice too! There’s an information desk that is always ready and happy to hand out amazing healthy recipe ideas utilizing farmers market produce being sold during that season.
According to Farmers Market Coalition
, four out of five farmers tend to talk about farming practices with their market consumers and three in five discuss nutrition and how to prepare the food they’re selling. How cool is that? Not many grocery store clerks will give you cooking or nutrition advice, that’s a fact.
In summary: Farmers markets provide access to whole foods that are healthier, plus are more likely to offer nutrition and cooking tips.
9. Generates sense of community
Not sure about you, but I don’t particularly feel a sense of community when I walk into a grocery store. We’re kind of all just there for our food and that’s it.
But there’s something about a farmers market that’s completely different. When we keep things local, it creates a feeling of tight-knit community.
It makes sense though: While at the farmers market, you can meet up with friends, educate ourselves on local and sustainable farming practices, get to know the farmers, etc. You feel a better sense of connection to your local community.
Some markets even have live music – just another way to bring people together. My market has done that in the past during the summer and I always thought it was so nice.
Not to mention farmers markets also improve the health of the community. If you recall, I mentioned earlier they help reduce food deserts and provide people with nutrition and cooking tips. That’s an amazing service to the local community, if you ask me.
I go so often to the farmers market they know me by heart now. I’m someone they can depend on for sales, but also someone they can interact with. I can also talk to them about their farming practices with ease, because they trust and know me. That’s true community right there.
In summary: When you go to a farmers market, you’re able to develop rapports with the farmers, socialize, and learn about sustainable practices.
So, are you convinced the farmers market is the place to shop now?
I absolutely love going every weekend – and now you know why. Hopefully you’ll join me!
If you don’t have a farmers market in your area, for whatever reason, there are three options that are second, third, and fourth best: Join a community garden, a CSA box, or grow your own garden.
Whatever you can do to help support locally grown food is the idea! Joining a community garden will help improve the community, plus offer you a space to garden for yourself. This provides you with fresh seasonal foods, similar to what you’d get at the farmers market.
A CSA box still helps support local farmers and delivers the food to you. You don’t get to pick the exact produce inside the box, but it varies depending on the seasons and what your farmer grows.
Lastly, if you have the space, I also encourage you to start your own garden and grow with the seasons in mind. You can even start a container garden on your windowsill – I have one right now growing basil, mint, cilantro and parsley.
What matters most is knowing where our food comes from and supporting locally grown produce whenever possible.
Do you agree with these nine benefits of shopping at farmers markets?
For more farmers market love, check out my zero waste farmers market essentials.
If you enjoyed this post, be sure to share it! If you like my content, sign up for my newsletter to get notified every time I write a new blog post. To support me even further, please consider buying me a cup of tea to help support my blog.