"No farms, no food," is the slogan the American Farmland Trust organization uses to encourage people to buy produce at their local farmers' market. Do you shop at the farmers' market? If not I encourage the community to buy their produce from farmers markets for the following reasons:
When you go to the grocery store, you have little to no interaction with the people who work there or who are shopping. You walk into the store and its freezing cold and an impersonal experience. Grocery shopping has become this mundane chore. It's as though, the moment you walk into the frigid store and the fluorescent lights hit you, your eager to get the hell out. When I first discovered going to the farmers' market, I encountered a whole new shopping experience. There was live music, prepared food vendors selling, omelets, pastries, pancakes, crepes, breakfast burritos, and fresh coffee. I thought I discovered Never-Never Land, with the sun beaming down on my face, the birds chirping, the grass roots music playing, and the endless smiles and sounds laughter from the people. Was I in still in Los Angeles? I continued my journey with a cup coffee and strolled around. As I walked around I couldn't help but eat; the farmers' insisted I sample their product. I didn't even need to eat breakfast! I ate a variety of fruits and even introduced a few new fruits to my palate. I didn't know white raspberries existed or mango nectarines did either. Being the health conscious guru that I am, I asked the farmer, how they grew their produce, was it organically grown, what kind of pesticides they used, how long the season was for the produce, and suggestions on how to cook it. The farmers' gave me a wealth of information about fruits and vegetables that I never knew before. They even taught me what to look for when selecting the cream of the crop, such as peaches, apples, and plums. I knew for sure, at that moment, my days of shopping at the grocery store were over.
Shopping at a Farmers' markets is not only an interpersonal experience but is a sustainable way of living. Grocery store produce has normally traveled a great distance just to get to your local grocery store. Often, when this occurs, more energy was used to transport the goods than it was to grow it. When it's grown locally and sold within the community it was harvested, your supporting the community and using less energy at the same time. Of course if you live some where on the east coast, it's inevitable for foods to travel long distances. However, we live in Southern California, where there are an abundance of farmlands surrounding us. It is important to support farmlands so that they can keep their farm and not have to sell it to commercial property realtors, who will build condos, malls or even manufacturing companies. If you are a "go green" individual, shopping at the farmers' market is definitely eco-friendly.
Lastly and most importantly, farmers' market produce is a lot higher in quality. The further the distance that the food has to travel, from the farm to the grocery store and finally to the consumer, indicates a lower nutrient quality. The produce isn't as fresh because it has been picked prior to ripening. Therefore, all the nutrients of the fruit or vegetable are not fully developed; they are prematurely picked. Often the grocery stores will pick them early and have them sit in a manufacture where a chemical compound is released into the air that allows the food to ripen. This is why the produce looks so fresh, almost like plastic imitations, while it's sitting out at the grocery store. However, when you eat it, the taste is bland and there is not a lot of flavor. Farmers generally pick their produce the day before it is sold, thus producing fresh products for their customers.
Farmers' markets promote a sustainable way living, bring people together within a community, and create a healthy way of eating fresh locally grown foods. Try and chose local food by, shopping at farmers markets, dining at restaurants featuring local food, and even asking your grocer to stock food grown in your region.