Recently, I have been visiting the Fulton Street Farmers Market on a weekly basis. If you ever visit Grand Rapids, MI then be sure to stop by. It is one of the best farmers markets in the world (yes I am being biased but it really is awesome).
When I went with my father this past Saturday morning, I began to think about several benefits to visiting the farmers market. I have over 17 written down and continue to think of more. This post has 10 of those 17. Tune in next week Monday for a minimum of 7 more.
This is easily one of my most important blog posts to date. It might be THE most important. Continue reading to find out why.
1. The cost of food is easier on your wallet
Are you on a tight budget? Visit your farmers market today. For the best deals, pay your visit during the last hour that they are open. Farmers may be out of some foods but this is the best time to score the best deals.
About 3 weeks ago a farmer at the Fulton Street Farmers Market here in Grand Rapids, MI had about 8 fresh tomatoes left. He was selling the big ones for $1 each and the small ones for 75 cents each. I had $1.50 left and was thus going to buy 2 small ones. Before I spoke, the farmer asked me how many I wanted. I mentioned probably 2 or 3. He offered me all 8 tomatoes for $2.50. It was one of the best deals I’ve ever snatched. All 8 tomatoes were amazingly juicy and do not compare to standard grocer tomatoes that are shipped from hundreds of miles away.
Just this past Saturday I purchased 4 large bunches of greens for only $4. This included lemon sorrel, swiss rainbow chard and 2 bunches of kale. At Meijer I can buy a bunch for $2 or $3! The bunches I bought at the market were ginormous. The best part? They are a spray free farm. No pesticides what so ever. The lovely lady was explaining to us how they pick the bugs off with their fingers.
And it’s much easier to barter with a farmer than it is with the cashier at a grocer!
Do you want some specific examples that compare the same foods?
Grass-fed butter from Rakowski farms is $4.25 per pound. Or I can spend $5.99 on about 17.5 ounces of grass-fed Kerrygold butter from Costco. I can buy 100% grass-fed ground beef from Rakowski farms for $4 per pound or 3 pounds of organic, non 100% grass-fed ground beef from Costco for about $4.50 per pound. I can buy a bunch of kale or swiss chard for $1 from the farmers market that is pesticide free (forgot which farm!) or I can buy a bunch of kale or swiss chard that is shipped from hundreds of miles away at Meijer for $2 or $3 per bunch (smaller bunch too).
Do you want one more example? I can buy one dozen eggs from pastured raised chickens from Rakowski farms for only $3 per dozen or I can buy organic/free range/cage free/omega 3 enhanced eggs for $3.50 to $4 per dozen.
2. The food is more fresh
When I bought the kale I learned that it was picked the night before. How freaking awesome is that?! The only way for food to be fresher is to grow it yourself. Ask your farmer when said produce item was picked before you buy it. Most of the time it will be the previous night or that same week.
Have you ever thought about how fresh the produce is at a standard grocery store? I don’t think it’s fair to call it “fresh” in most cases. Look at the label to see where it’s from next time!
3. A lot of the produce is pesticide free or at least sprayed less
You learned above that the greens I purchased this past Saturday came from a no spray farm. Good luck finding this at your standard grocery store! Even if a local farm does spray (most do) then they probably spray less than the massive farms from California, Canada, etc. My father purchased 5 lbs of blueberries and asked if they were sprayed. The farmer said yes but over a month ago. He seemed like a trustable guy but it would not be a challenge to find out for sure. Win.
4. You’re able to learn exactly how your food was grown or raised
Think about the following questions…
- Was the beef that you are about to purchase from a cow 100% grass-fed?
- What is the lifestyle like of the chickens? Do they run around the grass eating worms and such? Or are they stuck in a large pen that is so crowded they are unable to move? What are they fed as a supplemental feed? Soy?
- How is the bacon you are about to buy processed?
- What pesticides, if any, were sprayed on that bright red tomato you see?
- How long ago were those blueberries picked?
- How were the animals slaughtered?
- Is it possible to buy a whole, half or quarter of a cow to save tons of money?
It is VERY easy to find the answers to these questions if you visit your farmers market. You can easily visit any of the farms if you so choose. If they say you can’t then don’t buy from them! It’s a red flag that they may be hiding something.
How much of a challenge is it to find the answers to these questions at a standard grocer? It depends but it’s not as easy as visiting your farmers market.
These questions are very important. The answers are a major factor in your health and wellness.
5. The food quality is top notch
Most of the stuff you see at a grocer is crap. Even the meat you buy is crap. Will it improve your health? If you have been eating a Standard American Diet (SAD) then yes. But it’s far from optimal.
The best of the best is always at the farmers market. You get to learn exactly how an animal was raised and how a plant was grown.
Have you ever taken a bite out of a tomato that was shipped from hundreds of miles away, then later taken a bite out of a tomato that was grown in your local area and was picked a day before or even that same day? It’s not comparable.
Try it. Then let me know how it went!
6. The food is more nourishing
When produce is shipped from long distances it’s usually picked early. As soon as it’s picked it begins to lose some nutrients. It’s not much, but overtime it can make a large difference. Do you have any idea how long the tomatoes you see at your grocer have been sitting out? What was the color of them when they were picked? How long did it take for them to get to where they are now?
Most likely, the answers to the above questions aren’t that great. Thus, a lot of nutrition has been lost. It does not mean that tomatoes from a grocery store are unhealthy. Most likely, there are definitely more benefits than harmful effects. However, the tomatoes at the farmers market are not only cheaper, but contain a hell of a lot more nutrition.
Why do you still buy produce at a grocer?
7. You’ll discover new foods
The farmers market will carry what is in season at that time. The climate in any particular area prevents a farmer to grow anything he or she wishes. Growing avocados in Michigan is just not possible. If you were to stick to local foods only then will you certainly discover new foods to try.
I’m always intrigued by the herb specialists who are able to grow a million different types of mint including banana mint and chocolate mint. I have yet to buy any but I know that someday I’ll enjoy these different varieties of mint.
Your grocer is limited to what they can carry and they only care about profit, this causes them to carry mostly fake food. The middle aisles are well known for this. Sure, you can discover the newest potato chip at your grocer but it’s much easier to discover a new vegetable or type of meat at the farmers market.
My greatest discovery at the farmers market ever? Lemon sorrel. From a farm that is spray free. Win!
8. You’ll grow your relationship with food (this is crazy important)
Stepping one foot onto the grounds of your local farmers market is a T-Rex like step to growing your relationship with food. We are sick and continue to get sicker because we think our mouths are vacuums. We forgot what food is for. We don’t even know what food is (hint: It never comes in a box). Young children aren’t able to identify many common vegetables yet can identify french fries, pizza, bread and pasteurized skim milk (complete junk) in a heartbeat.
If you don’t see this as a major issue then you are crazy. It means that you probably have a very poor relationship with food which means you are probably suffering with various health issues.
Real food heals. Real food prevents just about any disease (99% in my mind) including cancer. Real food may not cure cancer many times but it will prevent it and there is a good shot that it will cure it if you catch the tumor early on before it begins to spread.
Fake food like Captain Crunch cereal kills. Even 100% whole wheat bread kills. Have you ever looked at the ingredients of your bread? If not, then go do it. Now. If you don’t have bread in your home then congratulations! Now go inspire others to throw theirs out.
When you have a strong relationship with the food that you put in your body, a beautiful, white snowball begins to roll and never stops. It may hit a few hurdles when no snowflakes are falling, but when it storms, (which is when you visit your farmers market and buy a bunch of plants and animals) your health and wellness improves in all aspects.
9. You’ll connect with your farmers and other foodies, health conscious humans
Most people who visit the farmers market are more than likely to be foodies and/or health conscious. If not, then they are definitely on their way.
All farmers are foodies in my opinion.
Thus, the farmers market is a fantastic way to meet incredible, vibrant people. Ask the farmers questions like the ones mentioned above. Get to know who they are if you buy from them regularly. Visit when you can and perhaps they will give you something for free.
10. There are potential health benefits of eating seasonally
Is it possible that you are allergic to X food because you eat it in an environment where it’s unable to grow? I think it’s certainly possible. I’d be curious to be involved in a study that seeks the truth to this question. It does not mean that you can’t enjoy a food because your environment is unable to produce it.
The Okinawas diet consists of 75% sweet potatoes (I am pretty sure it’s really yams). They are the longest living tribe in the world. This particular consumption amount of one food seems extreme but it isn’t, because sweet potatoes naturally grow in their environment and they have optimal health.
Either way, it is not harmful to eat only the foods that your specific environment can produce. We have been doing this ever since we humans existed. Whether you think this was about 6,000 years ago, 50,000 years ago or 2.5 million years ago is irrelevant. It was only until very recently (less than 100 years?) that most of us began eating much (most?) of our plant foods from an environment where they might not be able to naturally grow.
I may never eat 100% seasonal, local foods but as time goes on I’ll certainly continue to increase the percentage of my seasonal, local food intake. Coconut is only grown in a few places around the world and I refuse to give that up!
Do you buy the majority of your food at your local farmers market? Why or why not? What food discoveries have you made? In your honest opinion, what is the world’s greatest farmers market? Why? Please leave a comment below!
P.S. Click here to read about 7 more benefits to visiting your farmers market!