With spring on the horizon for a lot of us, it’s just about time to start thinking about spring produce and getting gardens started. If you’ve always relied on your local grocery store for produce, consider giving your local farmers’ market a try this year. Aside from financially supporting local small farms and farm-based businesses in your area—always a good move—you’ll almost certainly be getting better-tasting, fresher produce than what’s at your local grocer.
Why’s that? Well, most of the produce grown commercially is bred for qualities such as appearance, disease resistance, durability, and consistency, all of which make for efficient harvesting, shipping, and storage on a large scale. What often gets sacrificed for these qualities is taste and nutritional quality. Small farmers selling locally don’t have to worry as much about how long a vegetable will hold before it reaches its market, or whether every plant will be about the same size so machinery can easily work around it. They can select varieties with fantastic taste and nutritional quality but lumpy shape, or less than optimal disease resistance. Small farmers often harvest the day before or the morning of the market, so you’re getting the freshest produce you can short of growing it yourself.
You’ll also get an incredible variety; instead of having to pick from half a dozen varieties of apples, or tomatoes, you may have your choice of 20 or more, depending on your area and the size of your farmers’ market. You get to try varieties and types your local grocery store doesn’t stock, and you may find a new favorite. Also, most small farmers sell at markets within 50 miles of their farms, meaning your carrots haven’t been sitting on a truck for a three-day journey halfway across the country.
Shopping at farmers’ markets can also be quite affordable and much of the produce is not only fresher and better-tasting, but often is organically produced, if not certified organic. And you’re supporting your local community and greater sustainability and care toward the Earth and its resources. What’s not to love?!