Farmers’ markets in the United States were sparked by an idea two entrepreneurs had one day in the 1930s. The Gilmore property in Los Angeles was just a vacant lot. Fred Beck and Roger Dahlhjelm approached E.B. Gilmore with their idea to build a “village” at the east reaches of the property at 3rd and Fairfax. Here local farmers and merchants would be able to sell their produce out of the back of their trucks. In July 1934, about a dozen farmers gathered to sell their fresh produce – and so a tradition was born. Today, 80 years later, farmers markets are the cornerstone of the local food movement and play a pivotal role in improving our access to healthy, wholesome food.
Why shop at your local farmers market?
Know Where Your Food Comes From
You’ll never have to worry where your food came from. Meeting and talking to local farmers about their practices will help you learn how and where your food is produced. In the case of the 2006 Dole bagged spinach E. coli outbreak, contaminated ingredients were shipped long distances with other items before reaching their destination, which increased risks of E. coli infection.
Variety is the Spice of Life
Even a traditional farmer’s market can expose you to new varieties of produce. Did you know there are 8 different kinds of kale? Carrots that are purple, red and yellow? Oranges that grow green? Discover the cornucopia of produce that’s hiding in your farmers’ backyard.
Better Taste and Flavor
Produce has more flavor and tastes much better when it’s allowed to ripen fully on the tree or in the field. At farmer’s markets, produce is harvested at the optimal time and brought fresh from the farm to the market. This is the very idea behind the growing farm-to-table movement, and for a good reason! These foods have the highest nutrient value and in most cases, are organic and GMO free.
Connect with Your Community and Local Farmers
Making the rounds down the farmer’s market aisles versus the grocery store turns shopping into an adventure rather than a chore. Not only do these markets have local produce vendors, but many also feature locally produced artisan goods as well. Grab a hand woven basket to put all your market finds in. You might prefer some fresh fish or eggs from a nearby source. Supporting local small businesses is great for you and your family, the environment and your local community!
How to shop at your local farmers market:
Get There Early
In a grocery store, the produce has been sorted at the supplier’s facility before making the journey on a truck to the store. At your local farmers market, the person who picked your produce put it all in the same bin for you to sort through. If you get to the market early, you’re guaranteed the first pick of the bunch.
Know what’s in Season Locally
When you incorporate produce that’s in season, you’re feeding yourself the most nutrient-rich and flavorful version of that food. We found a great virtual resource for yearlong use: this Seasonal Ingredient Map shows you a list of seasonal produce in your state for each month of the year!
Survey the Aisles
When ingredients are in season they are plentiful, almost each stand will carry a few of the same items. Your job is to survey the selection first – another important reason to get to the market early. You wouldn’t want to buy a basket of tomatoes from one vendor only to find that another vendor a few rows down sells a more flavorful bunch for less. Most farmers offer tasty samples of their produce for you to try.
Know Your Produce
Familiarize yourself with what ripe and flavorful produce looks, feels and smells like. There are many resources online to aid you, but there is no substitute for hands-on experience. If you are in doubt, ask your local farmer to help you pick out the best. They’ll be happy to share their insight with you.