Culture / Food

Reasons to Shop at Farmers Markets

Recently, I had a discussion on Facebook about farmers markets (okay, it was actually more of an argument). A friend in New Orleans posted something positive about a neighborhood farmers market to which his friend responded. With shade.

Farmer's markets often offer more variety and fresher produce than grocery stores.

Farmers markets offer variety and fresher produce.

The gist of the argument was that only fools shop at farmers markets given that a person can find the same food at grocery stores for less. This friend of a friend claimed that markets were for yuppies who shopped at them because: a) markets are trendy; b) they enjoy showing others that they can afford to spend more on the same crap you find in grocery stores; and/or c) they’re stupid.

But there are many reasons to shop at a farmers market. And a lot of really smart people shop at them. And here’s why:

Fruits and vegetables are usually fresher. Think about it: vegetables at the market were typically picked the day before they’re offered at the market. If you’re skeptical, ask the farmer when she dug up that daikon radish or picked that peach. At the supermarket, fruits and vegetables arrive via wholesalers and distributers and often travel great distances—which takes time. And takes a toll on freshness, quality and taste.

Markets often provide farmers with the best (though certainly not easiest) way to make money. My friend’s friend suggested that farmers were making a killing by charging sky-high prices for cukes, kale and every other item on offer at farmers markets. But this line of thinking doesn’t make sense. Many farmers are barely making a go of it. And if the money were so good, wouldn’t farming be listed as a top career choice by Harvard and Forbes?

Spending money at markets supports the local economy and local stores. Instead of sending your money to New Zealand via a purchase of asparagus, send it to a local farmer who may just spend that money at your company. And even if he doesn’t, he’ll be sending those dollars into the local economy which will help your community, state and region.

Farmer's market are often located in the most interesting parts of town. Chicago's Federal Plaza market sits in the heart of the Loop and shares space with the giant Calder Flamingo.

Farmers market are often located in the most interesting parts of town. Chicago’s Federal Plaza market sits in the heart of the Loop and shares space with the giant Calder Flamingo.

Finally, farmers markets have been shown to improve the economic vitality of the neighborhoods in which they’re located. In other words, businesses located near a market do better because of the market. For more info, check out this study.

I could provide at least a dozen other reasons to shop at a market—none of which have to do with trendiness or social status. And with the exception of my friend-of-a-friend in New Orleans, no one will think you’re stupid for shopping at one.

PHOTO CREDITS: ALAN SHANNON

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5 Comments

  1. I love farmers markets and honestly, in many places, the prices are not that much different…. Sometimes even better. And the quality!!!!

    That said, living overseas, I do miss supermarkets where I can get my fruits and veggies year round.

  2. I haven’t been in awhile. I should go before all the snow comes.

  3. Alan Shannon says:

    A growing number of markets go year-round. Even in northern climes, kale, spinach (the sweetest you’ve tasted), and root vegetables can grow and are sold at the markets (along w/ apples, squash, etc.) Increasingly, markets are not just for the summertime.

  4. We love our local farmer’s market, and we appreciate the farmers and artisans who set up shop there. Did the friend of the friend come around?

  5. Alan Shannon says:

    I’m not sure if he came around, but my friend was supportive. One out of two isn’t bad. Well, not too bad.

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