Farmers Markets

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April 19, 2008

Farmers Market

This Vehicle Stops at Farmers Markets

I don’t have one of those “This Vehicle Stops at Farmers Markets” bumper stickers because I haven’t found one yet. However, I would modify it somewhat, to “This Vehicle Stops at Farmers Markets, Roadside Fruit and Produce Stands, and U-Pick Orchards”. There are several reasons why this bumper sticker would be an apt metaphor for a healthy and environmentally responsible (call it green if you wish) lifestyle.

Eat fresh. If you have a jaded palate from eating only supermarket vegetables that have been shipped from Chile or Mexico to regional warehouses then forwarded on to local stores, or canned and frozen fruits and vegetables (or you think vegetables consist of French fries and Ketchup), you may not even remember what fresh produce—in your mouth less than 24 hours after picking—tastes like. Visit your local farmers market (the local chamber of commerce can tell you where and when) and tickle those latent taste buds with fresh tomatoes, cauliflower, Swiss chard, strawberries, and peaches.

Farmers Markeet 2

Eat organic. Common sense and your taste buds will tell you that locally-grown organic fruit and vegetables that are grown, according to Wikipedia, “without the use of conventional pesticides, artificial fertilizers, human waste, or sewage sludge, and that were processed without ionizing radiation or food additives” most likely will taste better and be better for you. Corroborating studies have shown that about 77 percent of conventional food carries synthetic pesticide residues. And a lot of water and air pollution comes from conventional farming operations, such as runoff laden with pesticides.

Eat healthy. Fresh fruit and produce contain more micronutrients (antioxidants and phytonutrients) that fight cancer, impede aging, and maintain heart health than ones that have been conventionally grown or have been sitting around on store shelves or come out of cans.

Cut out the middleman. It’s hard to make a living as a small family farmer while keeping prices competitive. One way for these farmers to keep more of the money spent on food is to cut out all the brokers, warehouses, and shippers—all the people taking a cut out of the food dollar–by selling direct to the end retailer or the customer. Ask your supermarket if they buy locally from farmers.

Support your local farmer. By buying direct from the farmer–or from stores that buy directly from the farmer–you will enable him to compete with large industrial-sized mega-farms with expensive distribution networks, which will help keep him in business.

Learn about new, regional foods. Another advantage of buying from the local farmer is that he will grow a greater variety of vegetables instead of just the big selling ones (and ones with crop subsidies) that are more profitable for the conventional farmer, giving you a broader choice of what to eat. Talk to the farmer about the stuff you don’t recognize, how to prepare it, what to serve with it, etc. You will find local farmers love to talk about their veggies.

Reduce transportation costs, reduce greenhouse gasses. A recent study showed that the average vegetable travels 1,500 miles between grower and retailer. Buying from local sources will cut down on eighteen-wheelers moving tomatoes along the interstates. According to the government’s Department of Energy, “Since 1999, the transportation sector has led all U.S. end-use sectors in emissions of carbon dioxide.” Reduce the number of shippers on the road and the miles driven and greenhouse gasses go down also.

See the countryside. You won’t find fruit stands and farmers markets on the interstates. Get off onto the two-lane roads and into the small farming towns and see the countryside from a different and more personal perspective. You just might find a lot of new places—and farmers—that you may want to visit again.

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  2. Gotta agree with you love Farmers Markets. Stop when ever we get one in town. And must say makes some of the best meals and some very nice prices compaired to stores and there “fresh” products.

  3. Bob Difley

    Gerry – The labeling of what you buy is one of the developing problems with so many jumping on the green bandwagon. In most cases, organic is better than locally grown, if it is “Certified” organic by the government, including roadside stands, that will be quick to put up their Certified Organic sign. But buying organic in a supermarket could mean that the organic produce comes from Mexico or Chile–which are also regulated by the government–while the roadside stand could come from 50 yards away in the farmer’s field. However, a few questions can help make your decision. Ask the person selling the fruit or produce about their farming practices. They may be in the process of getting their organic certification, which I believe takes three years of following organic stipulations. In that case, local–though not officially organic yet–is the logical choice. In some other cases, the farmer may not like dealing with the government (can you blame him/her) and will in most cases be honest about his farming practices, such as whether he uses chemical pesticides. He may practice organic farming though without the certification. Weigh the situation, and buy local, organic whenever possible. The resultant reduction in pesticide use, food transportation costs (and CO2 production), and other reasons make orgainc more healthy, flavorful, and better for Mother Earth. Thanks for the comments.

  4. Bob Difley

    Leonora – You might want to include “U-Pick Orchards” to that bumper sticker, also. If you’ve never done it, it’s kind of like getting back to one’s earthy roots as a farmer, when most of the country’s population were farmers. It’s especially fun if you have a family group, kids love picking from living trees and plants. You can find U-Pick apple orchards just about everywhere, as well as U-Pick berries (blackberries, strawberries, raspberries, etc.). You will also find varieties, especially apples, that you will never find in grocery stores. And when you pick fruits and vegetables right off the plant, you know how fresh they are.

  5. Gerald D Schutz

    We patronize roadside fruit & veggie markets whenever possible, and are generally pleased with them. We are presently in the Rio Grande Valley, and regularly go to the DonWes fruit market on Saturday or Sunday. I suspect a lot of the produce comes our of Mexico, but it is freshly picked, delicious and reasonabley priced. It”s probably nor, “Organicly grown”, but you pretty much have to take someones word for that anyway if you are going to patronize road side stands. I’m having a little problem justifying in my mind that it’s that big of a deal, anyway. Happy & safe RVing. Gerry

  6. Leonora

    Besides the sign that says stops are road stands, I want to put a sign on the back of my rig that says stops at swap meets, garage sales, auctions, historic sites, scenic views, etc. Think I will add the road side stands – sounds like a healthy idea