Many people love shopping. I love food shopping. I mean I really, really love it. Especially when I’m outdoors, buying directly from the farmers themselves.
I recall when we first returned to Ohio after living in the south for several years. We hadn’t completely settled into our new city and I was still trying to figure out the lay of the land here in Columbus. I’d heard about a Saturday morning farmers market just outside the North Market downtown, so one morning I checked it out. I recall parking the car and setting foot on just the edge of the market. The sun was shining bright and people were bustling around. Vendors filled the sidewalks with gorgeous produce, plants, flowers, honey and more. I loved every bit of it.
Since then, I’ve made it my priority to visit a farmers market weekly throughout the summer. Luckily, we have one from June through October in our very own neighborhood. This block of time each week is non-negotiable for me.
There are many reasons to shop at a local farmers market, but here are some of mine:
1. Spending our dollars = casting our vote.
I didn’t come up with this idea (I'm pretty sure it was Kathy Freston) but it’s stuck with me. Every time we spend money, we’re making a choice. We’re voting for organic or conventional foods; American made items or imported; mass produced or handmade; reusable or disposable, and so on. We’re telling an industry what we want and we’re voting for someone to stay in business. Clearly, we can’t always afford to make our ideal purchases, but being aware of it has shifted the way I spend money. Given the choice between a grocery store chain and a local farmer, I’ll vote for the farmer every chance I get. They need and deserve our vote. More selfishly, I want them to stick around.
2. The quality of food is the best.
Typically, the food purchased at a farmers market was picked that day or the day before. It doesn’t get any fresher than that, and fresh fruits and veggies taste so, so good. In regards to organic standards, many farms don’t go through the expense or formalities of organic certification. I’m now into the practice of simply asking if they spray or use chemicals. They answer honestly and you can make your own decisions from there. (For me, conventionally grown produce from a farmers market still beats organic from the grocery store.)
3. Relationships with farmers pay off.
Early this summer, I approached one of my regular vendors with a couple veggies in mind to purchase. Before anything else, she looked me square in the eye and said, “thank you for coming every single week.” It took me by surprise. Having access to so much abundance is a gift I don’t take for granted. Regardless, local farmers notice and appreciate our support. And trust me, some of them are very quick to throw in an extra pepper or okra, or whatever, because they are thankful for the relationship, too. More than anything, there’s joy in connecting with the face and hands that passionately labor over growing such amazing food.
4. If you’re a gardener with questions, these folks have the answers.
No matter what, each year of gardening comes with surprises. I can’t say how many times I’ve had questions or frustrations with my own garden and turned to an expert at the market for an answer. They always have experience and advice to share. They’ve taught me so much more than google.
I’ve often joked that the farmers market is my church. Not exactly so... but five months out of the year, it’s the place that consistently lifts me up, demonstrates community, and provides for me and my family.