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.
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.