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Are Farmer's Markets Good for the Environment

Farmer’s Markets are great, but their benefits are not obvious to everyone. For starters, they are a center - or hub - of sustainability in today’s world.

Farmers - usually local - deliver fresh, organic food to a growing number of the community. These shoppers or customers, if you will, want food that is both healthy, and environmentally friendly. They also want to buy directly from the source, as opposed to through an intermediary or third-party like a grocery store or food chain.

An added benefit of this direct relationship means that farmers can make a better, more honest living off naturally grown food. In addition, the local markets provide them a place where they can sell a variety of products, not just common vegetables. The implications are that farmers have more freedom when it comes to what they grow and how much they produce.

But more importantly, farmer’s markets are great for the environment - better than conventional markets - in many forms. To understand why, you really need to be familiar with how these markets work, and what goes into them. You can’t truly know the impact of something without first understanding what it offers.

The Direct Environmental Impact

Before we dive in to discuss this aspect of farmer’s markets, it’s important you understand there are direct and indirect influences. We will explore the latter in more detail. For now, we’re going to talk about the more direct - some may argue most influential - impact these markets have on the environment.

Due to the nature of farmer’s markets and what customers are seeking, they place an emphasis on not just food quality and health, but also the farming practices used to grow that food. In other words, it’s not just about the food or vegetables but the impact development has on the surrounding environment.

Farmers are forced - more like willing - to adopt sound practices that don’t harm or degrade the environment. Pesticides, chemicals, and preservatives are not used to protect the food from natural elements - thus there’s less to pollute the water and soil. Hormones and injections are not used to enhance it or alter the taste.

In addition, because the customers care, farmers are becoming more conscious about the waste and pollution they create during growth cycles, and even how they handle it. For instance, many farmers might choose to adopt on-site composting and related systems to help mitigate climate change and boost the surrounding environment. Plus, the organic growth habits reduce a number of pesticides and chemicals altering the surrounding water, soil, and area.

Ultimately, customers demand a truly organic market with healthy food and products. This pushes all the farmers to adopt higher standards, all of which are better for the environment and greater public health.

The Indirect Environmental Impact

Arguably, one of the most important benefits is that farmer’s markets not only contribute to the local economy, but small business, as well.

According to the US Census of Agriculture, over 144,000 farms sold a total of $1.3 billion in agricultural goods directly to consumers throughout 2012. Even though that statistic is a few years old now, it’s still relevant, especially since farmer’s markets have become even more popular in recent years. And you have to think, all that money is going directly to the farmers, helping them be more sustainable in the long run. They can afford to pay their bills and continue providing fresh goods to customers at cost.

The sales also stimulate the local economy, help support local farmers and agriculture professionals, and even support a healthier community. Think about it, farmer’s markets naturally foster diversity, encouraging people of all races, financial class, age, and even lifestyle to mingle in the same place. All customers are essentially looking for the same thing, healthy food, and so they all interact and mingle during their visit to local markets.

28% of respondents from a survey, indicated the greatest benefit of local markets “in their opinion” is that it “brings people together” from all walks of life. These markets and events truly help foster a healthier lifestyle, as much socially as physically.

So, on top of being directly beneficial for the environment, these markets are just as [indirectly] good for the local economy and patrons, as well.

But What Does Local Food Truly Do for the Environment?

It’s difficult to assess the true benefits of local farming without taking a look at modern business practices. Most models are designed to bolster corporate entities or organizations, weakening communities and local business, and concentrating wealth in areas where it’s not necessarily needed, but still coveted.

While that may sound a tad overzealous, it is truly the state of things in today’s world.

Many large-scale food companies, grocery and food chains, and organizations have bought smaller farms and agricultural properties en masse. They consolidate operations to better focus on mass production. In other words, it becomes a makeshift production line, where these companies are more interested in churning out high quantities of food and reeling in higher profits than they are about the smaller aspects of their industry. Like whether or not the food they are producing is healthy and free from contaminants. Or, whether or not the measures and methods they use are beneficial - or harmful - for the surrounding environment, communities, and economies.

By nature, local farming is more beneficial for the surrounding community and environment.

Now, that doesn’t necessarily mean all local farming is better. It is still possible for small farmers to do just as much harm, which means they can also a negative influence on the local soil and water supply.

But due to the higher standards and demand from most customers at a local market, it is unlikely that local farmers would continue to reel in business if and when their harmful methods are discovered. Therefore, they are focused and driven to providing healthy local foods, at reasonable costs - especially when compared to some of the larger chains and stores.

Local foods are generally produced as close to their home market as possible. In fact, a lot of markets have restrictions on how far sellers are allowed to travel with their goods.

This means that customers are supporting local farmers who, more often than not, live on the land they cultivate and so they work hard to preserve it. They are wary of the way their work affects the surrounding land, and this includes forests and wetlands. Farmers are generally more concerned with keeping the surrounding countryside healthy and intact because it all plays a role in their food output.

Plus, while not completely eliminating the dependency on fossil fuels and common pollutants, local farmers are still less dependent, especially when compared to industrial operations. They aren’t mass producing goods or transporting them great distances. They also don’t use large-scale processing and packaging plants to handle the food they’re planning to sell.

So, in many ways, it’s easy to see why local farming and farmer’s markets are truly better for the environment.