There are some striking statistics when one looks at the growth of farmers markets nationally. For instance, farmers markets have grown from about 1,700 in 1994 to 5,300 in 2009. This number only continues to grow. In my opinion, this is a sound example of how the food movement is progressing in our country. People are beginning to see a flawed food system, leading to action and change.
However, while progress is being made, something else is beginning to happen. Companies are beginning to see the popularity of these movements: grass roots endeavors are gaining and they want a piece of the pie. They may even want the whole pie. An example of this can be seen with online farmers markets; this webpage lists a few. No need to bike down the street and meet your farmers anymore, you can now order online, through an electronic middleman, who will ship your “local,” “farm fresh” produce right to your door. While this is convenient and may be the better option for some, it is excluding many of the benefits that come with regional markets.
While fresh produce may be one’s main motive for getting to the farmers market every week, it is not the only reason to go. Markets can provide a space to connect with our communities, neighbors, and friends. Every experience is personal as you travel between vendors and ask questions or initiate conversations; they keep local dollars local, and they aid in cutting down large scale fossil fuel emissions brought on by mass transport of food products.
Unfortunately, we are living in a time when neighbors do not know neighbors, and we are mostly surrounded by those we may not know the importance of these connections. Still, there exists a place where making human connections are both necessary and encouraged: the farmers market! Usually positioned in or around a park, town square, or shared space, local markets allow one to explore the vendors individually, spend time chatting the day away, or hang around talking about the day’s bounty with friends and family in an (often) open air communal locale. There is no shame in making a solo appearance or bringing along the whole gang, this space facilitates community growth.
In addition to the market fortifying relationships, it also allows for enrichment. When at a more traditional supermarket, one may pick up a vegetable, box, or shrink wrapped product, read the label, and even may possibly try waving down an employee, but chances are you may end up resorting to a quick Google search on you smart phone if any questions need to be explored. Through attending local markets, one can forgo this entire process. Instead of avoiding the produce you don’t recognize or don’t know how to prepare, there is a live person in front of you, willing to answer any and all questions to their best ability.
The market is also a place for learning and exploring. If a shopper does not recognize some produce and would like to try something new, farmers or vendors offer samples. They want you, your kids, your family, and friends to all explore, try, experiment, and delve into the glorious world of food. Aside from the knowledge the vendors can share, one can also learn about his or region. For instance, this fall, as most pumpkins are being transformed into pies, South Florida’s growing season is just getting started. Down in the southeast, fall is the rest of the nations spring, in terms of growing seasons. And as snow settles in and the rest of the country snuggles in, we will be farming in shorts.
Economically, the farmers market is also quite beneficial. There seems to be a lot of middlemen these days, and with the marketplace they disappear. This permits farmer, artisan, or craftsman to profit more from direct sales, usually giving the consumer a better price, and leaving that dollar amount local. This then allows for these artists to continue reinvesting in their craft. The argument has been made that with every purchase we are voting with our dollar, investing in what it is we believe in, from our energy bill to our food purchases. The act of supporting the farmers market is one that states you want your farmer to continue his or her work, farmland to stay local, truly organic methods to be used, and for your community to thrive. Some markets have adopted programs that allows them to accept SNAP and WIC cards. Everyone is entitled to a nutritious meal.
On an even greater scale we can take a look at global emissions. Think about where things initially come from, and not just the store where these items were sold and purchased. Most plastics are petroleum (oil) or corn based, which has to be extracted or grown, followed by processing that raw material into some tangible form. Taking into account all of the natural resources poured into that process and adding transportation costs, the emissions (both energy and fuel) add up. At the farmers market this can be reduced dramatically. Usually, more than just food can be purchased at this “one stop shop” and most things are handmade or grown. If the food was grown organically, this cuts down on emissions even more because of the processing and carbon emissions that goes into making and using pesticides, herbicides, and insecticides. It is always important to consider the bigger picture.
All in all, farmers markets are growing nationally and at an exponential rate. While this surge may be from the high demand of organic, local produce, there are also a number of other benefits these markets bring along with them. If your community does not yet have a farmers market, listed below are a few places for you to get started. Always support your local community, and remember the importance of every small purchase: they always add up. In the end these efforts together make an enormous impact.
Here are some tools for getting a Farmers Market started in your neighborhood –
“Farmers Markets.” Web. November 3, 2014.
Stuever, Beth. “Farmers markets are important part of the community for economic, social, and environmental vitality.” Web. November 3, 2014.
“The Importance of the Market.” Web. November 3, 2014.
“Voting with Your Dollars.” Web. November 4, 2014.