Deliciously Frugal Farmer’s Markets

Article By Stephanie Johnson

 

Imagine this: it’s a Saturday morning, bright and early, with cheerful little birds singing all over the place and a bright blue sky.

 

You could be sleeping in.  But you’re not. Instead, you’re standing outside with your family or significant other, breathing in the crisp morning air, a wad of bills in your pocket, surrounded by fresh tomatoes and green beans, bread and home-made jams … and the hustle and bustle of an outdoor market. And somewhere, someone is playing a guitar.

 

There are many different vendors all around you, and you see lots of different things you’re interested in, all brought in from around your area.  There are plump, juicy tomatoes, local cheeses, wild berries, no-spray peaches, honey.  Some vendors even sell cage-free eggs, homemade preserves, bacon from a nearby family farm, or even coffee hand-selected and roasted by a local company. 

 

Another vendor sells breads and hot, fresh bowls of soup with little spoons so you can eat while you shop.  There are cheese and tomato pies prepared fresh with vegetables harvested from the cook’s garden.  And people sip little cups of the piping hot, wonderful-smelling local coffee as they visit each stall.

 

Children shop with their parents, giggling and asking questions and asking to choose which fruits and vegetables they want to try.  People swap recipes and stories with the vendors, and drop change into the case of the man playing the guitar.

 

This was my experience at a farmer’s market I recently visited in Louisville, Kentucky.  I can honestly say, it was much better than sleeping in.  My fiancé and I left the market with smiles on our faces, songs in our heart, and bags full of the most wonderful goodies.

 

Over the years, I have visited many different markets, and I have always walked away with these feelings.  I can honestly say I have never experienced it after shopping at a grocery store or supermarket.  Outings like that leave me with more of a “Thank Jiminy that’s over,” feeling as opposed to a “That was great! I can’t wait to see what they’ll have next week!”

 

These days, farmer‘s markets seem to be all over the place.  Some of them, like the one I visited, are quite large, and almost have a fair-like quality to them.  Others are very small, maybe even just a charming old fellow selling fresh corn out of the back of a truck.

 

If you’ve never visited a farmer’s market before, you really should consider it.  There are many, many great reasons to shop are a farmer’s market.  Here are eight:

 

1. It’s fun!

Visiting the market is a great experience, even if no one‘s playing a guitar.  Try taking your kids there and letting them pick out some of the things they want to try.  It’s a great way to get them to cultivate a taste for fresh things, and they might even get interested in planting their own little garden by talking to the farmers.

 

2. Support Your Local Economy and the Community

By buying a portion of your groceries from local farmers, you’ll help to keep your local economy vibrant, thriving, and beautiful.  Did you know that only 43 cents of every dollar spent at a chain store stays in the local economy?  Compare that to nearly 70 cents spent with local businesses and farmers! It’ll also help to make your community stronger and closer knit by fostering a sense of “this is our neighborhood, and we’re all friends here.”

 

3. Help the Environment

Almost everything on your supermarket’s shelves has taken a long trip to get there, which means more fossil fuels spent and more pollution.  But by buying locally, even if it’s only a few items, you are making a choice that can help make the air, soil, and water much cleaner for you and your kids. Also, while many local farms can’t legally call themselves ‘organic’ due to federal regulations, many use organic sprays or just good old-fashioned farming techniques as opposed to harmful pesticides. Ask the farmers at your local market about their practices.

 

4. Gather new recipes and make new friends

Many of the farmers are great, friendly people who have a lot of ideas as to how you can prepare their goods.  Some even offer free samples and recipes, and if you’ve come by their stall a few times, they may offer you a really good deal on something.

 

5. The Freshest Food Around

I once stopped to buy some beautiful blue potatoes at a farmer’s market in Massachusetts, and the gentlemen selling them informed me that he had just harvested them that morning.  That evening, I boiled them up and ate them with some dill and butter.  They were wonderful!

 

You literally cannot get food any fresher than that unless you grow it in your own backyard.  There’s a direct link between how old produce is and how much nutrition is in it.  Produce you buy from the supermarket may be days or weeks old, and contain only trace amounts of vital nutrients.  Buy fresh and local for a healthier you!

 

6. Try New Things

Before visiting the farmer’s market, I had never tried a blue potato in my life.  Nor had I ever tried fresh roma beans, or Japanese eggplant, or sweet dumpling squash, or fiddler ferns.  There are many types of apples, grapes, peaches, melons, and berries that aren’t sold at supermarkets simply because they’re too much trouble for big farmers to grow in a market that favors quantity over quality and flavor.

 

7. Gourmet Flavors

I may be biased, but I truly think that farmer’s market food tastes better.  It may have something to do with the freshness and high nutritional value, but a meal prepared with fresh, local produce is a first-class, gourmet experience to me.

 

8. Deliciously Frugal

Many of the vendors have far better prices than you can get at a store.  Also, if you buy in bulk (for example, freezing berries for the winter is a popular option) you may be able to negotiate an even lower price.

 

So visit your local farmer’s market! If you don’t know where your nearest one is and when it‘s open, a simple internet search or a call to your local community center should do the trick.  I assure you well worth the trouble. Happy trails and good eating!

 

“The American Dream [is] one of the greatest ideas in the history of human achievement … It thrives today in an age when its core components of freedom and opportunity are open to more Americans than ever before.  It holds a real, identifiable place in the American heart and mind, and it informs the aspirations of everyone from farmers to software developers, from detectives to bankers, from soldiers to social workers … It defines us as a people, even as we add to its meaning with each new chapter in our national experience and our individual actions.”
-Dan Rather

 

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Posted on 28 July, 2009 in Finance & Family, Fitness & Health, Making the Day Count
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