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Do Farmer's Markets Have Better Food?

Do Farmers Markets Really Have Better Fruits, Vegetables, and Goods?

Many claim that you will find healthier, “fresher” foods at a farmers market that are of higher quality. Is this really true, and where do these claims come from?

The question is straightforward, but unfortunately, the answer is not. The appropriate answer is both yes and no, surprisingly.

For the most part, you will find produce and goods that are of much higher quality at a local market, but it also depends on the region where you live and where said market is located. Availability will always differ depending on location and season, as well.

Let’s take a closer look and get to the bottom of this.

Are Fresh Markets Goods Always Fresher?

More often than not, produce and goods from a local market are better and of higher quality but that’s not always the case. As loathe as we are to admit it, sometimes it’s best to do some shopping at a local market, and the rest at a grocer or retailer.

When and why depends on the season and current location of your market. Certain types of foods may or may not grow during times of the year. For instance, summer fruits like strawberries are seasonal and will not be found year-round at all local markets.

Sometimes, the quality may even be lower or equal to grocers, but in those cases there’s still the matter of variety.

Let’s use avocados as an example. Most supermarkets only stock on particular type of avocado, the Haas because it has thick skin and a lower oil content, which makes it last longer and more resilient. This matters to grocers because they must produce, package, store, and then ship those vegetables all across the country sometimes even hundreds of miles away.

At a local market, however, you may find up to 12 different types of avocados, maybe even more. Some other types include Fuertes, Bacons, Giant Reeds, Zutano, and of course, the Haas. The other types have softer skin and more oils, which makes them a poor choice if they need to travel long distances. Naturally, a grocer and the related farmers aren’t going to focus on producing the other types or even offer them if they’ll go bad before they get to customers.

Local markets, on the other hand, and local farmers can produce these goods and sell them because they exchange hands much faster.

Then there’s always the matter that fresher fruits and vegetables almost always taste better. There are exceptions, but that’s largely the pattern. Ever bit into a truly fresh apple or strawberry? Remember how delicious and juicy it was? Yeah, exactly.

That’s why many say that goods at a local market are fresher. But that doesn’t explain why they would be considered healthier, now does it?

Why are Local Markets Goods Said to Be “Healthier” Than Grocery Goods?

Small and local farmers often adhere to organic and healthy standards, which are often much more environmentally-friendly than those followed by corporate and large scale farmers. Because they aren’t forced to produce a certain quantity of goods, they don’t have to boost their production levels with harmful chemicals, hormones and more. They also do not treat their goods with pesticides that are harmful for the environment, which could potentially pollute the surrounding community.

When it comes to animals and livestock, they are also treated better, more humanely. Even animals going to the slaughter are afforded free reign in their natural habitat with healthy foods and exercise. They are not crammed or confined into small spaces in a warehouse nor are they force-fed unnaturally enhancing chemicals and hormones.

It's not a leap to claim that most of the goods you will find available at a local market are both healthier and fresher. They often are and now you can see why.

What About When It’s Not True?

Many types of produce and goods are seasonal and others are regional. In the former, the goods will only grow during a certain time of the year or climate. With the latter, they may only grow in a particular area of the country or world. This is part of the reason why sometimes you might find a local market lacking in goods or variety.

It's also difficult to keep fresh goods preserved for extended periods of time throughout the year to sell during seasons or in regions where they might not be available. That is another reason why goods at a local market may or may not be fresher than those at a grocery store or retailer.

Garlic, for instance, grows wonderful in the Spring, Summer and Fall months. In the winter and in colder climates, however, that’s not the case. So it might be hard to find garlic at a local market during the winter months or in colder weather if you live in a colder climate. Any that you do find will have been stored for availability in the winter, and won’t be as fresh as when they are in season. This is simply the nature of fresh and local goods.

Naturally, that means garlic you find at a grocery or retailer that is imported from a location where it is in season or can be grown fresh will be, well, fresher.

In addition, since farmers have the final choice in what seeds they use and what they grow the selection will always vary from local market to local market. They do not have to prioritize development for long storage, long shipping distances, and an exorbitant quantity of customers. Instead, they can focus on one or two of their favorite crops or goods for a particular vegetable or fruit and so often the quality is much higher. Adversely, that also means there will be times and markets you visit that do not have what you are looking for.

So, Is It Better to Buy from a Local Market or a Grocery Store?

Ultimately, this is a question you will need to answer yourself. You must weigh the options and decide where and what you would rather spend your money on. There’s nothing wrong with entertaining both local markets and grocers especially when you’re talking about a fruit or vegetable that’s not in season or in season.

Just know that with local markets you are supporting small business, the local economy and community, and the environment. With a grocer you may or may not be supporting any of those things. That’s not necessarily bad or evil, it’s just a matter of what you feel is more valuable.

If you’re looking for totally fresh goods then local markets are always the better choice. If you care less about the freshness and quality and more about the price and availability, then grocery is your best bet. In the end it’s all up to you, and now you have the knowledge you need to make a properly informed decision.