Discovering Farmers Markets & Enjoying Fresher, Local FoodsTue 28 Feb 2012
Story by Justine Levine
The first time I went to a farmerís market, I was living in Los Angeles. I remember vividly that first experience of being surrounded by fresh seasonal fruits and vegetables, the friendly faces of farmers offering samples of their prized peaches and bread, the music of local artists, and the feeling of belonging I felt. I discovered that there were markets practically every day somewhere, and I became obsessed. Iíd never shopped anywhere but a supermarket, and this? This was a revelation.
By talking with farmers and with the other shoppers, I learned that eating local means reinvesting in the local economy, enjoying fresher produce, being more in touch with the growing season, and knowing the story about the food I eat. I learned that good food was about belonging to, and supporting, a community.
Years later, my family and I are regulars at several local farmersí markets. Each week, I bring my five year old son, who says itís his favorite thing about the neighborhood. The market has become a community center for us, where I see my neighbors, where we trade ideas and recipes, where our children learn about healthy eating and the origins of what we put on their plates. (Studies show that people shopping at farmersí markets have 10 times more conversations than at the supermarket!)
The market has helped us to eat more ethically: we know that by supporting local farmers, weíre helping to preserve the open spaces we love; most of our meals are now plant-based, and when I do buy meat, I buy it from farmers I know who treat their animals humanely. The farmers directly benefit from a relationship with us without the middlemen of transportation and chain grocery stores. A recent study found that every dollar spent at a farmerís market generates an additional $2.50 in direct and indirect economic activity.
Two years ago, we decided to take our commitment to the healthy and sustainable eating one step further by joining a CSA. We pay a local farm a set price for a seasonís worth of produce, and each week they give us a box of whatever is being harvested. This arrangement introduced us to produce that Iíve never seen in the grocery store, and because we were determined not to waste anything, we made better choices at mealtimes We tried new recipes. My kids got to visit the farm and put their fingers in the dirt; they know that tomatoes grow on vines, that apples grow on trees, that corn grows on stalks. They loved sampling everything when it was picked.
It may be strange to think about farmerís markets and CSAs in places where itís winter, but even our local market is open, and sells cold-weather produce. And right now, itís prime season for joining your local CSA. If youíre serious about the food revolution, try starting local, and join a community of people who are changing the way we eat!
About the author: Justine Levine is a writer, foodie, and working mom who blogs about food, parenting, yoga, and life at 'a half-baked LIFE'.
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