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Farmers markets have become one of hottest trends in American culture. It’s all thanks to dedicated farmers, our ever-growing search for healthy foods, and desire to keep the planet healthy.
These local markets are popping up everywhere, and lucky for us, New England is no exception. This season, there are 40 different farmers markets across Rhode Island alone, most of which will accept WIC and EBT benefits as well as cold, hard cash.
Many might see the farmers market as just another venue to purchase food, but as these five ways highlight, they’ve become so much more than that!
While the concept of neighbors and community may have changed over the years, these farmers markets have become hot spots for meeting people and building personal relationships between neighbors, residents, and merchants. Farmer’s markets can foster camaraderie and a sense of community pride. They’re also helping people feel safer and boosting small, local businesses.
Many farmers markets also host weekly activities or events. These might include free painting and cooking lessons, classes on growing vegetables from seeds, massages, or even competitive games for children. They’re designed for people of all ages to come, engage with one another, learn, enjoy themselves, and hang out. It’s a great way for families to spend a weekend day outside enjoying the summer and being active.
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The initial intent of farmers market was to allow local growers to sell their healthy, locally grown, fresh food to the community. The most common items are produce like fruits and vegetables. But there’s also cheese, eggs, jams, nuts, honey, milk, and even fish and meats. It’s an opportunity to stock up on things like greens, carrots, potatoes, tomatoes, and other staples. It’s also a fun opportunity to buy and try something you may have never heard of or seen. Kohlrabi, anyone?
It’s a myth that food at farmers markets is more expensive than brick and mortar stores. In fact, the prices are competitive with organic produce purchased elsewhere. The appeal is that you’re purchasing seasonal food grown near your house. While you might not realize it, your body has a genetic rhythm that’s designed for you to eat what’s available at certain times of year. Your local farmers market is helping you do what your body wants. Give your body the nutrients it craves!
Any time you can involve your children in food purchasing decisions, the greater the likelihood that they’ll be willing to try it when it’s on the table. The farmers market is a great place for that. It’s far less structured than the grocery store, allowing kids to run around freely, and people to bring their pets. Farmers also love answering questions about what they’ve brought.
Bring your children with you. Ask for their help in selecting the staples for your family’s meals. Allow them to pick one item they’ve never seen before to try each week. Don’t be scared if the item picked is one you have never seen either. Just ask the farmer. He or she will know what to do with it and will likely ask how it turned out when you return!
When it comes to nutrition information, we can’t learn enough. Farmers markets can provide insight into what you’re really putting into your body. Strike up a conversation with a beef merchant and ask them about how their beef is raised compared to commercial beef. Learn why grass-fed and finished beef has a better omega fatty acid profile than farm-raised salmon. Ask a fish vendor about fish farming versus overfishing of open water, and the impacts it can have for both the consumer and the ecosystem. Each will usually be happy to answer. The education you’ll gain is invaluable and free!
Farmers markets have an impact on our lives far beyond what we see on the plate in front of us. Healthy food nourishes our bodies and minds. Healthy bodies are able bodies, productive in the workforce and the economy. When a community’s economy is strong, the quality of life is better. It all starts with what we put into our bodies, which comes from the community members who grow it.
For more information on farmers markets in your region, visit FarmFreshRI.org.