By Christopher Peake
Green Right Now
It’s already mid-March and that means the snows will melt and if the ground’s not too saturated farmers will soon be planting seeds for the food that will feed us this year.
Since time immemorial farmer’s markets have been with us: farmers harvest, bakers bake, dairy farmers milk their cows and they all meet at a central location where there’s lots of foot traffic … and they sell. The common theme: the food is fresh.
In addition to the standard organic fruits, vegetables and eggs, farmer’s markets offer items you wouldn’t usually consider: hand-made brooms, herbs, bath and body care products, lobster rolls, wine, organic teas and “traditional handcrafted leather goods and repair”, rabbits, natural and dyed yarn and spinning supplies, photographs of local scenes, elk and moose meat, organic spice blends and increasingly, fresh fish.
1. It’s locally grown
Most but not all Farmer’s Markets in the US require vendors to have grown, produced or crafted what they sell at the market. Most vendors are small, one- or two-person operations and they grow only what they can manage. They grow what’s in season and it’s local. Ask the farmer if they grew what they’re selling, ask if it’s organic. Don’t buy until you’re satisfied with their answers.
2. You know the farmer personally
You know where the farm family lives; you’ve seen their farm, your children go to school with their children, you see each other at church or at Little League games or at a movie. You know the farmer and you trust him. He’s a neighbor.
3. It’s where the chefs and restaurateurs shop for fresh produce and baked goods
“And the produce defines ‘tree-ripened’. It’s fresh. ”
Raj, chef at an Indian restaurant in southern Maine, buys there “because it’s local, within a 20-mile radius. It didn’t come here from California. Also, I support the local community.”
4. Prices are often cheaper than supermarkets
… but not always. Organically-grown and the small-operation produce is very labor-intensive. Individually planted by hand, individually nurtured during the growing process and then individually harvested by hand obviously takes a tremendous amount of time. But the local farmer doesn’t have the tremendous labor, mortgage, transportation and other expenses of a supermarket, so cost comparisons show that all-in-all the farmer’s market sells food for less than a supermarket.
5. There’s less of a carbon footprint: field to farm
What about the bananas at a supermarket in America that come from El Salvador, the berries from Chile, and the kiwis from Australia … how can they possibly be their freshest when they were harvested so early in their growth process and they grew older on their journey? Local produce usually travels less than 10 miles from field to market. Take a bite from a store-bought peach and then take a bite from a locally-grown peach. As chef Patrick Soucy says, “I needed five napkins to wipe my mouth after biting the locally-grown peach”.