Paleolithic days were spent gathering wild berries and nuts; Neolithic times brought the benefits of farming and trade; but now food products almost seem like plastic in their uniformity.
In the 21stcentury, supermarkets offer fruits and veggies carefully screened on the basis of appearance. Livestock is offered already butchered with parts pre-packed in shrink-wrap.
For those of us who long to return to the land and more primitive provisions, the nearest equivalent to cavemen times is a trip to the local farmers market.
That’s where the sights and smells of naturally grown produce mingle with fresh air and earth to stimulate our ancient gatherer instincts.
What’s more, there are plenty of other benefits to shopping at farmers markets, too. Here are five of them:
1. Better Produce– Products in farmer’s markets are often seasonal and organically grown . The crops are harvested in their most natural state, free from superficial aesthetic screenings as well as pesticides. Don’t be surprised to see irregular-shaped melons, twin bananas or sweet potato runts—less pretty, perhaps, than their mass-marketed cousins but typically tastier and more nutritious for sure.
2. Competitive Prices– Farmers markets eliminate middlemen, so transportation and handling costs are reduced. That often makes the items that are sold there cheaper than those made available through agribusiness channels. And if the price doesn’t seem right, you can haggle. Try doing that with the supermarket produce manager!
3. Right Quantity– Whether you want one apple, a whole bushel or a full year’s supply for home canning, the farmers are happy to bundle up the exact amount you want. Never buy more or less than you need just because “that’s the only size bag it comes in.”
4. Clean & Green– Since the goods sold at local farmer’s markets clock in fewer food miles and are delivered without using freezers or air-conditioning, CO2 emissions are lower. That results in up to a 20% reduction in your food’s carbon footprint . Also, packaging is kept to a minimum so there’s less waste to dispose of.
5. Sense of Community– Chatting with your food growers will help you appreciate what you eat even more. Trade favorite recipes with other shoppers, make new contacts or just hang out with friends and enjoy the rustic ambiance. Nothing turns an urban sprawl back into a village quite like a bustling open-air marketplace.
All in all, farmers markets are a better alternative to shopping under the fluorescent lights of the nearest Food-O-Rama. Though not necessarily complete in terms of diversity of items offered as opposed to modern supermarkets, farmers markets certainly put a human face back on foraging for food.
Alfablue, October 2012