In a world where the agricultural industry is increasingly being consolidated under the ownership of a select few companies, the importance of having options for where you get your food from has become extremely important.
Thankfully, there are still quite a few people throughout the United States growing food on their own land and offering it through the local marketplace.
At farmer’s markets, you are supporting local people who are engaged in building sustainable and renewable food systems that also strengthen the local economy.
But it’s not just local food vendors that you can find at your local farmer’s market.
In this article, we’ll discuss the 7 primary benefits of farmer’s markets and why you should shop at one every chance you get!
What is a Farmers Market?
There are a few kinds of markets these days; pop-up markets, fashion markets, flea markets, and others.
And one of the most important types of markets in the US is the farmer’s market.
Farmer’s markets typically carry produce that’s best suited for purchases that aren’t large in volume, like fresh fruit, baked goods, and organic or heirloom vegetables.
Basically, things that you can carry out in a bag or two since grocery carts aren’t typically available at farmer’s markets.
But farmer’s markets – just like their classic grocery store counterparts – also offer a wide variety of other produce and homemade goods that are sourced and made (or grown) locally.
At your local farmer’s market, you may find; soaps, fruits, candles, essential oils, vegetables, seasonal goods or fruits, cheese, baked goods (e.g. homemade bread), organic food, seasonings, sauces, and much more.
Most farmer’s markets are also typically operated under USDA guidelines (especially anybody selling “organic” produce), which helps ensure the safety of their produce.
Are local Farmers Markets common?
In one of the most recent updates from the USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS), it was disclosed that in the span of just 6 years (2008 to 2014), the number of registered farmers markets in the US exploded by an incredible 76%.
Given that there were over 8,000 farmers’ markets in operation at the end of 2019, that growth trend appears to be ongoing in 2021 and beyond. This data alone indicates that one of the primary benefits of farmer’s markets is an economic benefit to the local community.
The local farmer’s market has also become more common over the years, thanks to efforts in various state legislatures across the US to relax the strict laws regarding selling homemade goods locally.
For example, the Texas Cottage Law revisions that took effect on September 1, 2019.
Traditionally, farmer’s markets have often only operated on weekends, but as demand has grown, more and more farmer’s markets are now operating on weekdays as well.
If you’re looking for a local farmer’s market near you, you can locate it on The National Farmers Market registration database.
What are the benefits of farmer’s markets?
Since there are so many reasons why you should shop at the farmer’s market, we’ll limit this list to the most important benefits of farmer’s markets and outline them below.
Farmer’s Market Benefit #1: It’s healthier
Aside from growing food on your own land, being able to choose organic food from a small farm means there are no hormones or pesticides used, and the food is produced in a way that is entirely natural and healthy.
The USDA’s National Organic Program is responsible for ensuring that, on an annual basis, any food that is sold as “Organic” comes from a producer who has undergone a rigorous certification process.
The food you get from a farmer’s market is also fresher!
There is nothing quite like a good piece of produce, and grocery stores are notorious for having long shipping times. That results in produce only being ripe for a very short amount of time after you buy it before it goes bad.
With fresh produce from the local farmer’s market, your fresh fruit and vegetables you just purchased were likely picked that day, or within the past 24-48 hours.
A study conducted by Michigan State University’s Center for Regional Food Systems found that it takes an average of 1,494 miles for traditionally grown food to go from the farm, to your table.
Everything at the local farmer’s market is usually much fresher and healthier; meat, bread, cheese, etc.
Farmer’s Market Benefit #2: It’s better for the environment
Although you might be familiar with the sustainability standards of most grocery stores, you might not realize how close your local farmers market is to reaching the goal of sustainability.
The goal of all farmer’s markets (and most of their vendors) is to be as sustainable as possible, meaning they want to sell the freshest produce, milk and meat, and other locally produced goods that make up their businesses.
And they want to do it in the most sustainable and renewable way possible.
A study conducted by the Natural Resources Defense Council found that when food was grown locally, it produced substantially lower carbon monoxide emissions than that of imported goods.
By contrast, many local farms and vendors participate in (and create) various renewable and sustainability programs throughout the world.
Through these various programs, they provide resources and education to the local community on how to continue to improve the local food systems and strengthen farmer’s markets across the county.
By shopping at your local farmer’s market, you’re participating in a greater overall environmental effort on a very local and personal level.
Farmer’s Market Benefit #3: It’s often cheaper
One of the biggest benefits of shopping at the farmer’s market is that certain things at the market can be less expensive than at a conventional grocery store.
There are a number of farm stands that offer goods at different prices per pound or offer discounts for bulk purchases, so you can shop around to find the best deal.
While the amount of the discount may vary between markets, the bottom line is that, maybe somewhat surprisingly, farmer’s markets are often cheaper than what you’d pay at the grocery store.
Sometimes, compared to my local grocery store, I pay less than half of the cost for a wider variety of produce at the farmer’s market.
So it not only saves me money – but it also supports local farmers.
Most of the farmer’s markets around the country also offer a number of meats which are not only often cheaper than a grocery store, but also healthier in general.
By going straight to the local vendor, you skip the middle man (i.e. grocery stores), and thus cut the cost.
Farmer’s Market Benefit #4: It tastes better
A lot of people only think of farmer’s markets for their abundance of locally-grown produce.
And it’s true, most produce is tastier when it is grown locally, and you can buy the freshest produce when you visit your local farmer’s market.
But it’s not just the fresh produce.
It’s also the meat, the cheese, the bread, and everything else that was made or harvested very recently and had zero shipping time other than the short commute your local farmer took to drive to the farmer’s market that day.
The food and produce that you find at the local farmer’s market is also typically sold at the peak of its flavor, and the freshest moment in the life of that specific product.
Farmer’s Market Benefit #5: A wider variety of food
I cannot count the number of times I’ve gone to the grocery store several weeks – or event months – in a row and everything in the produce section is the same.
And that’s OK, for some people. Personally, I like to mix things up a bit.
The grocery store operates that way because they have to put the most popular products on the shelves.
The vast majority of people tend to be habitual in most things, including with their food habits.
If the store tries to mix it up too much, well, sales may drop and customers may buy their favorite staples from somewhere else.
Stores are also affected by food supply lines, bulk orders, etc.
Whereas farmer’s markets tend to be more seasonal in nature. As a result, the variety of goods changes at local farmer’s markets on a regular basis.
In fact, you may find a new fruit or vegetable that you like, and you go back to the farmer’s market a week or two later, and it’s no longer available.
And that’s part of the fun.
Speaking of which, have you ever tried microgreens? Check out your local farmer’s market – I bet someone there sells them!
Farmer’s Market Benefit #6: You learn a lot
Local farmers and vendors know a thing or two about how to use the things that they grow or create. They know how to prepare, they know what missteps to avoid, they know how to properly store them, season and cook them, plate them, etc.
Many times, they’ll even include some of their own family recipes as part of your purchase.
Want to learn something new? Look through the farmers market produce and find locally grown food that you’ve never seen or tasted before and ask questions like:
- Is this seasonal produce?
- What kind of nutrients are in this?
- How can you tell when this produce is at peak flavor?
- What other fresh vegetables do you sell throughout the year?
- What are some seasonal fruits that you will be selling this Summer?
- Do you have any recipe’s you’d recommend for this fresh fruit?
Just talk and ask questions – your local farmers are often more than happy to tell you all about their products!
Farmer’s Market Benefit #7: It supports your community
Sometimes people think that just buying a local brand from a grocery store is doing enough to support the local community.
That’s a great start, but your money has the potential to have a much bigger impact on an even more local level!
When you go to the farmers market, you are supporting the local community and the local economy, which makes your purchase that much more meaningful.
By bypassing the middleman (e.g. grocery store), your local farmer is getting a higher profit margin with every purchase, which in turn gives them more operating capital to continue growing their local business and support their family.
And for a number of people, the farmers market is also a great way to go beyond just a commercial transaction, and connect with family and friends in your community.
If you’ve been intrigued by the idea of farmers markets, but weren’t quite sure what the benefits of farmer’s markets were, and why you should be shopping there, hopefully you understand why it’s such a fantastic idea.
And the wonderful thing is that you don’t even have to travel to a place far from where you live to start utilizing the potential of this type of shopping format.
In fact, there are many small local farmers markets throughout the country where you can go and purchase local produce. It’s a mutually beneficial arrangement where you benefit from what the farmer’s market has to offer, and the farmer’s market – and the entire community – benefit from your support.
And, now that you’re familiar with the benefits of farmer’s markets, you can search for local farmer’s markets in your area via the USDA’s national farmer’s market registration database.