Local fruits and vegetables are the freshest and tastiest available. Local produce is fresher and tastes better because it is usually sold within 24 hours of being picked. If you buy produce at a conventional grocery store, it may have been kept in storage for days or weeks. When grown locally, the crops are picked at their peak of ripeness versus being harvested early in order to be shipped and distributed to your local retail store.
Local fruits and vegetables are better for you. The longer fruit and veggies spend on a truck or in storage before being delivered to you, the greater the loss of vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients. Most non-local produce is picked before it is fully ripe so it can survive the trip to the grocery store. When a plant is allowed to linger on the vine and fully ripen before being harvested, its nutrient content is higher.
Local produce preserves genetic diversity. In the modern agricultural system, plant varieties are chosen for their ability to ripen uniformly, withstand harvesting, survive packing and last a long time on the shelf, so there is limited genetic diversity in large-scale production. Smaller local farms, in contrast, often grow many different varieties of crops to provide a long harvest season, an array of colors, and the best flavors. At the farmers market you find an amazing array of produce that you don’t see in your average supermarket, including more nutrient-rich varieties that may not be hardy enough for transportation or popular enough for mass markets. The broader your diet, the more nutrients you consume.
Local produce is seasonal. What grows is the most abundant, least expensive and at its peak. Shopping and cooking from the farmers market helps you to reconnect with the cycles of nature in our region.
Local food is typically produced using methods that minimize the impact on the earth. Well-managed farms conserve fertile soil, protect water sources, and sequester carbon from the atmosphere. Three out of every four farmers selling at farmers markets say they use practices consistent with organic standards. Land that is cultivated organically decreases the overall usage of chemical pesticides, herbicides, fungicides, and fertilizers. Many (although not all) small-scale, local farms nourish plants with cover crops and other sustainable methods that put nutrients back in the soil. Allowing the fruits and veggies to grow at their own pace with abundant natural nutrients enables their roots to dive deeper into the earth, increasing the nutrients the food pulls from the soil.
Local farmers promote humane treatment of animals. At the farmers market, you can find meats, cheeses, and eggs from animals that have been raised without hormones or antibiotics, who have grazed on green grass and eaten natural diets, and who have been spared the cramped and unnatural living conditions of feedlots and cages that are typical of industrial-scale animal agriculture.
Eating local reduces your carbon footprint. Locally or regionally sourced produce travels about 27 times less distance than conventionally sourced produce. Food in the U.S. travels an average of 1,500 miles to get to your plate. All this shipping uses large amounts of natural resources (especially fossil fuels), contributes to pollution, and creates trash with extra packaging.
Local food is safer and more resilient. The more steps there are between you and your food’s source the more chances there are for contamination and disruption from natural catastrophes. Knowing your farmer means enhanced product traceability and accountability of producers to consumers.
Buying locally grown food preserves our working landscape. When farmers get paid more for their products by marketing locally, they’re less likely to sell farmland for development. Our landscape is an essential ingredient to other economic activity in the state, such as tourism and recreation. In the US, we lose nearly 40 acres of farmland every hour to development – and once farms are bulldozed and paved over, that land is gone forever. Farmland also lowers our tax burden – farms contribute more in taxes than they require in services, whereas most development contributes less in taxes than the cost of required services
Eating local means more money stays within your community. Every dollar spent generates twice as much income for the local economy. Local farmers who sell direct to consumers cut out the middleman and get full retail price for their food. Money that is spent with local farmers and growers all stays close to home and is reinvested with businesses and services in your community. Local retailers and farmers return more than three times as much of their revenue to the local economy than do chain competitors. This “economic multiplier effect” helps create jobs and boosts economic activity.
Buying local creates local jobs, keeps existing farms in business, and attracts new farmers. Growers selling locally create thirteen full-time farm operator jobs per $1 million in revenue earned. Those that do not sell locally create three.
Know Where Your Food Comes From. Knowing farmers gives you insight into the seasons, the land, and your food, and ensures that there will be farms in your community tomorrow. When you buy direct from a farmer, you’re engaging in a time-honored connection between eater and grower. Four out of five farmers who sell at farmers markets discuss farming practices with their customers, educating them about farming and its interactions with the natural environment. Local farmers aren’t anonymous and they take their responsibility to the consumer seriously.
The farmers market is a community hub. The social opportunities markets create provide important public health benefits, as well as social cohesion. Farmers and neighbors come together to educate each other about nutrition, cooking, and farming. Coming to the farmers market makes shopping a pleasure rather than a chore.