I realize this post is a little late in the season since a lot of the Farmer’s Markets will be closed shortly, but September is officially “Buy Local Month” and I believe this is an important topic to discuss.
Basically, I am a huge fan of Farmer’s Markets and buying local food! I am lucky to live in a relatively large city that has quite a few for me to visit and I try to take full advantage of this. My wife and I buy most of our meat from local farmers and try to get as much fresh veggies and fruit from the market as we can. The prices are very reasonable and I really believe in the benefit of supporting local foods and farmers.
The food often tastes MUCH better than what you would buy at a supermarket, and for good reason. These local farmers must deliver excellent crops to the Farmer’s Market or people will not buy from them next time. Their income and reputation depends on delivering a quality product. Another good thing about the food is that it has not traveled far from its original source. In contrast, produce and meats at supermarkets have often traveled extremely far, and therefore, they utilize a lot more fuel and resources to be delivered. This also means they are probably not as fresh as their local counterparts.
A lot of people ask: “Are the meats and veggies from Farmer’s Markets more healthy than what you find in supermarkets?” To be honest, most of the research does not show a BIG difference. There is a slight difference in micronutrient density and macronutrient profile.
For example, grass-fed beef (this is what is usually sold at Farmer’s Markets) contains less omega-6 fatty acids, and has a better ratio of omega-3 to omega-6 fatty acids, as compared to non-grass-fed beef, which is sold at supermarkets. A high omega-6 intake promotes inflammation, and therefore, a host of metabolic and cardiovascular problems.
Also, several studies have found more micronutrients in organic and local produce as compared to supermarket produce.
So how much does this make a difference? In my opinion, buying conventional produce over produce found at Farmer’s Markets is not going to make a significant difference in your health. It will not taste as good and will not deliver as many micronutrients, but it is better than going without it. On the other hand, I do think buying grass-fed meat and pasture-raised poultry is worth the extra cost and effort to obtain.
However, even if the products at the Farmer’s Market do not significantly improve your health (although they may?) I still think the benefits of buying from them are huge. You are supporting your local economy and signaling to producers that you want more attention paid to bringing quality products to the market.
So what do you do if you do not have access to a Farmer’s Market?
First, check THIS WEBSITE to make sure there are none in your area. If you still cannot find any, here are some options:
-Plant your own garden. You do not need much room to grow a lot of veggies.
-Join a CSA.
-Find a buyer’s club that delivers produce and/or meats. This is how I buy most of my beef. My wife and I buy from a farmer that is in Northern Indiana, but they deliver throughout the state to a particular club. You can even be a host site for where these businesses will deliver. Here is the place I buy from: Honored Prairie.
-Buy directly from a farmer in your area. Some farmers will sell directly to a consumer on his or her farm. I have bought eggs like this in the past and it is a great way to know more about the products you are receiving. Many farmers are happy to show you around and allow you to see how they grow their produce and raise their meat.
These are just a few ideas for supporting local foods. Let us know in the comments some of your favorite ways to enjoy fresh and local foods.
Have a great week!