Farmers Market Season is Here
By Natalie Bickford, MS
Farmer’s markets are becoming more and more popular and accessible. We are big supporters of buying produce, meat and products locally whenever possible and within budget. It supports your local economy, increases a sense of community, and is usually more nutritious. The price tag can sometimes (but not always) be slightly higher, but you’re getting vegetables at peak nutrition and flavor and getting to know the person who grows them. Another great option for getting local produce is signing up for a CSA.
What is a CSA?
Community supported agriculture (CSA) is a great way to support and get to know your local farmers. How it works is you purchase a ‘crop share’ at a local farm before the season starts and then during that season you get fresh, local, seasonal produce that you either pick up or gets delivered to your door. This way, your giving your farmers the capital they need to operate for the upcoming season. It benefits both the farmer and you! If this doesn’t suit your lifestyle or isn’t available, buying produce at a farmer's market is another great option.
Find out if you have a local CSA near you!
The benefits of going to the farmers market or joining a CSA
Supporting local farmers + knowing where your food comes from
When you buy produce from a farmers market or CSA, you are directly supporting that farm and building a relationship with them. This also makes you more aware of where your food comes from and the labor and love that went into growing it. When you’re able to chat with the farmer growing your food, it creates a deeper appreciation of that produce as well as a sense of community. Farmers grow crops to support themselves and their families, but also to nourish and support you.
Seasonal produce means more nutrition
When you go into a grocery store and see every vegetable imaginable all year round, it’s easy to lose touch with what’s actually in season. When you shop directly from a farmer, you know that all of the produce is in season, which means it has more nutrition and flavor.
At supermarkets, vegetables have to travel for a long time or sit in warehouses before they make it to the shelves and, in turn, lose much of their nutritional value. The average carrot has traveled 1,838 miles before you get your hands on it. This study showed that broccoli at a supermarket in May has half as much vitamin C as broccoli picked in season during the fall.
Seasonal produce means way more flavor
You’d be amazed at how much more flavor something as simple as a carrot tastes when you buy it in season from your local farmer. Farmers pick their produce at the peak of ripeness and it is often in your hands that same day. That means you’re eating it at the time when it tastes it’s very best! Think about the difference between a juicy farmers market tomato in the summer and a tomato you find at a supermarket in the winter...
Experiment with new seasonal vegetables
One of my favorite parts about going to the farmers market is finding new vegetables to experiment with. Whenever I see something unfamiliar, I ask the farmer what it tastes like and how they like to cook it. They’ll usually give you some great, simple tips because when produce is that fresh, you don’t need to do much to make it taste delicious.
Why You Should Buy Local Meat, If Possible
There are many ethical, environmental and health concerns with animal farming and for these reasons, people are wanting to know more and more where their meat comes from. The meat industry intentionally confuses us with all of the different and often misleading labels and terminologies used on packaging (organic, natural, grass-fed, grass-finished, pastured, free-range, cage-free, etc…).
You may be able to find out where the meat from a supermarket comes from, but it’s pretty much impossible to speak directly to the people who are actually raising, feeding and slaughtering the animals. The real difference between buying meat locally vs. at a supermarket is that you can talk directly to the farmer and even visit the farm.
When it comes to buying any animal products, try to be as informed as possible. If you live in an area where local quality meats aren’t available, just try and make educated decisions on the meat selection that you have. There are also some great meat subscriptions out there like Butcher Box that offer really great quality, humanely raised meat from a collection of small farms.
The fun, but also challenging part of a CSA is coming up with what to make with your mystery box of veggies. Stay tuned next week as we will be sharing our go-to recipes that are flexible enough to work with all your favorite farmers market finds.
And check out this deal from our recipe-testing sponsor, ButcherBox, exclusively for Run Fast Eat Slow fans.
Natalie is a nutritionist and personal chef in Portland, OR who specializes in women's health and sports nutrition. She loves creating simple, nourishing meals and recipes to fuel your life. Find Natalie at nataliecooks.com.