Farmer's Markets vs Supermarkets
Farmers Markets are often touted as better for the environment and local community than brand name chain stores and supermarkets. There are many reasons why this is true.
If you're truly curious what makes a farmers market so beneficial, it has everything to do with the sustainability of those participating and the goods that exchange hands at these events.
But more importantly, there are a handful of benefits to shopping at a farmers market over any other place.
Rather than explore concepts we've explored multiple times in the past, for this question and answer piece we'd simply like to discuss the benefits of choosing a farmers market for your next fresh grocery shopping trip.
1. Fresh Food Tastes Better
This point is an easy one to both see and grasp. When it comes to fruits and vegetables - heck even meats - fresh is always better. But you only need to do a small experiment to see this firsthand for yourself.
Buy a fruit or vegetable from the supermarket - like a Tomato - and the same thing from a local farmers market. Then, taste them side by side.
What did you notice? Which one was more ripe and delicious? We're willing to guess that 9 out of 10 times you try this the food from the farmers market will taste better.
2. Local Food Is Usually Riper
Local food is usually harvested at the peak of its ripeness cycle. While grocery and store bought foods may have been picked at the opportune time as well, they still have to be packaged and transported to wherever they're being sold. Sometimes, this means they have to be transported all the way across the country, maybe even the world.
Local foods, however, don't have far to go. Most markets set limitations on how far sellers and farmers can travel to participate. This is to keep competition healthy and fair, but also to protect the consumers.
Back to ripeness, local food that is picked at the right time and doesn't have to travel far will be riper than store bought food. End of argument.
3. Local Farmers Have Honed Their Craft
Keep in mind, we're not saying the farmers that supply stores and food chains are terrible at what they do. We're simply pointing out that local farmers have more freedom, and usually, this means they have more experience with a specific crop or type of food.
Local farmers are free to choose what they grow, when, and how much. This allows them to focus almost entirely on quality over quantity.
4. Local Food Is More Affordable
If all you look at is the base price, it will seem like the fruits, vegetables, and food at local markets are more expensive. Not to mention, things can get a little confusing because each vendor sets their own price. So, the same food at the same market can end up being different prices depending on the vendor.
But actual cost is about more than just the price you pay.
Local foods are often sold to consumers in bulk, so you may be paying more but you're usually getting more than you would at a supermarket.
Not to mention the quality of the food you're getting is much higher. It's much healthier, much more rich and tasty, and free of harmful pesticides or chemicals.
5. Local Market Goods Are Better for the Environment
We could stay here all day explaining this one, but we'll try to keep it brief.
For starters, the chemicals and pesticides that most conventional farmers used are not acceptable for organic and local farmers. They often used healthier, greener alternatives.
Local farmers don't package or transport their goods as far either. That means they don't have to worry about unhealthy preservatives; natural ones will do just fine when they're necessary.
Plus, local suppliers are using less gas and fossil fuels to transport their goods. See this article for more information on farmers markets being good for the environment.
6. Local Food Has a Known History
When you buy something from a farmer at a local market, you can ask them directly where its been, how its been handled, and how it was grown. The seller will tell you exactly what chemicals and treatments the food has had. In fact, local farms will often allow you to tour their properties and witness their production and harvesting processes.
There are no mysteries with local, organic foods. Compared to the food you buy at the grocery store, you can't say the same. You have almost no idea where it came from, what chemicals have been used, and/or how healthy the food truly is.
7. Farmers Markets Foster Community and Social
The entire experience of a farmers market is about more than just buying food or browsing for goods. When you go to a market it's a social experience. You interact with the sellers, members of your community, and you can even bring family or friends along.
To add to that, most farmers markets are more of a local event than a marketplace. That means there are other things going on usually like entertainment, games, contests, and more.
8. Farmers Markets Have More Variety
When you look at how markets operate from the outside, it seems like they might offer a lot less than a supermarket. For example, most local markets are seasonal and goods are based on regional factors. This means if there's a fruit or vegetable that cannot be grown in your local area, you probably won't find it at the market.
Supermarkets and food chains, on the other hand carry foods year-round, even out of season. But this also means the food they carry is often not as ripe or fresh. Nor was it produced in optimal conditions.
Still, it's hard to argue with the fact that supermarkets and stores carry certain types of food year round.
But in reality, farmers markets offer so much more variety. Even though in a general sense the available foods may be less, you have so many more options.
Apples, for instance. Different stalls or vendors may carry different kinds of apples, and even when they have matching types they may have been grown or produced differently, so they'll look different and maybe even taste a bit different.
9. Local Farms Are Not Industrial and Do Not Mass Produce Foods
The farms and suppliers of grocery stores and food chains grow their crops on a large-scale. Because they have to worry about efficiency and total yield, they often grow different crops together in the same field. This is referred to as a "monoculture" and is often more susceptible to disease and pests. Worse yet, because of how they are used monoculture setups often sap the surrounding soil and earth of necessary nutrients needed to grow certain foods or plants. This means the food produced is often of lower quality. Not to mention, the setup is harder for the environment and land requiring more unnatural chemicals, pesticides and fertilizers to be used.
It's not difficult to guess what kind of impact this has on the environment, let alone the food that's being produced.
10. Local Foods Are More Nutritious
There's a reason why we wait for fruits and vegetables to ripen before we harvest and consume them. The more ripe and colorful they are, the more nutrients they contain.
Organic, natural foods are healthier for your body in many ways. Plus, certain foods are seasonal for a reason. Lighter fruits and vegetables are better and easier on your body in spring and summer months, while heavier, heartier foods like squash are better consumed during winter and autumn. They provide more sustenance and energy, and your body can digest them more efficiently in cooler weather, believe it or not.
But seriously, just compare the food you buy at the supermarket with the food you can buy at a farmers market. You'll see right away how obvious the nutrition difference is.
Local and organic farmers markets are just better all around. Why not give them a try the next time you need to shop for some groceries or food?