Planning meals and shopping for groceries is enough of a chore — trying to do it all in a way that factors in what’s best for our economy and ecology and our own health can make it seem like a steep mountain to climb. We need to eat, but if we want to live as sustainably as possible, how do we decide where to take our hard-earned money to stock up on our sustenance for the week?
If you find yourself running out of energy at the end of your work day, it’s almost too easy to pull into your local Target or other one-stop mega store and load up a shopping cart of inexpensively-priced groceries. Less stress, less money spent, and you can shop for jewelry, electronics, and vacation attire at the same time. But is this really a decent option for those of us committing to a green lifestyle? Probably not.
The sad thing is, much of the food presented to us as consumers has traveled thousands of miles to sit in those beautifully prepared produce displays. It’s also been produced for quantity and durability, with added pesticides and preservatives to ensure they last the journey, so any emphasis on quality and deliciousness is thrown out the window of the delivery truck. So not only are you eating food that has contributed to the use of large amounts of fossil fuels, but it tastes pretty average. Where’s the fun in that?
For those of us who want to live a more sustainable lifestyle and make decisions that do right by the planet, we need a different option. I’m sure most of us want to know where our food is coming from and how it has been grown, but getting this information when you’re shopping at a supermarket is time-consuming. I’ve got a better option for you — one simple way to shop that simplifies the process of eating well for yourself and the planet, and it’s closer to home than you’d think.
One of the most straightforward ways to know exactly where your food is coming from is to buy it directly from the producer. There’s no easier place to do this than at your local farmers’ market.
Shopping here is one of the most eco-friendly ways to stock up your kitchen, and it’s not just your green conscience that will thank you. Your cells will sing from the quality of nutrients they are receiving, your wallet will be satisfied that it’s spending money on quality items and supporting your neighbors, and your social calendar just might expand as you find yourself interacting with more members of your community during your regular market outings. The best part? The entire planet benefits from your decision to shop in your own neighborhood.
Still need some more convincing about why farmers’ markets are worth the time and money? Here are four reasons to grab your reusable bags and hit the market this weekend.
1. You’ll shrink your environmental footprint when you buy locally-produced items
The items sold at the farmers’ market have travelled significantly less distance than those sold in the supermarket, thereby decreasing a reliance on fossil fuels and reducing air pollution. Many farmers’ markets will only allow the selling of produce that was grown within a certain radius, such as 50 miles. This is in contrast to your average supermarket food items that have traveled an average of 1,000 miles to reach your shopping basket.
2. Your body will thank you
Farmers who sell at markets are typically very transparent about their methods of growing and raising produce and animal products. They’ll happily chat with you about organic methods of crop raising, the benefits of non-GMO food, the large fields their cows graze in, or the perfect patch of nutrient-dense soil where their strawberries spend their formative days.
Farmers’ markets are also the perfect outlet to shop for quality food that packs a greater nutritional punch than their conventional mass-produced supermarket counterparts. The majority of food sold at the farmers’ market has been produced with organic and sustainable practices. That means there are fewer synthetic pesticides and chemicals entering your body and the soil. It’s food, as nature intended.
It’s also easier to choose healthier foods when they are staring you in the face, like the fruits and vegetables that are proudly displayed front and center in the market stalls. You’ll skip the temptations of the overly-processed supermarket sweets and treats when your senses aren’t constantly being bombarded by them.
3. You’ll be supporting the local economy and a more sustainable production system
Farmers’ markets are the perfect outlet for small, local producers who simply can’t compete with the massive volume and low market prices enjoyed by the large corporations that are receiving government subsidies. By selling locally and directly to the consumer, these small-scale producers can create a thriving business without the middleman. That means they’re receiving 100 percent of the profits instead of just 15 percent, which is typical of the farmers and ranchers that are selling to large corporations. Farmers’ markets also help stimulate sales at local businesses. Everybody wins!
4. You may just gain a greater sense of belonging and integration into your local community
There is something beautiful about connecting with the producers of our food, something so integral to our survival. There’s also an element of trust that blooms when you chat with a farmer about the fresh sweet corn or budding tomato plant you’re buying. They are passionate about what they do and more than happy to discuss their farming practices and how they interact with the natural environment. They might even give you some new recipe ideas and spark a bit of inspiration for your culinary adventures in the kitchen. Many markets feature live entertainment, cooking demos, and educational presentations that can add a bit of variety into your weekend routine.
The next time you find yourself lounging in bed on a Saturday morning, wondering how to spend your day, just remember the benefits of skipping down to your local farmers’ market with a canvas bag in hand. Treating your body well and making ethical choices for the planet becomes a lot easier when you simplify the decision-making process of where to buy your food. With a bit of mindfulness and a global perspective, you’ll find yourself befriending local farmers, dancing to the music of local artists, and chowing down on food that has been produced for deliciousness, not durability. Doesn’t that sound sweet?