For European countries like France, Italy, England and Germany, farmer’s markets aren’t a novelty, they’re an essential part of daily life. Europeans don’t stockpile their groceries in huge refrigerators or store massive amounts of toilet paper from Costco.
The primary reason is that Europeans don’t have the storage space for bulk shopping. Your first reaction may be to think they’re less fortunate. On the contrary, they’re better off by default for several reasons. I list five here, coupled with my favorite local Sonoma County farmer’s markets you won’t want to miss.
1. Less Waste
Shopping daily or even twice a week wastes less food. Buying in bulk harbors a false sense of security and isn’t advantageous. Admit it, we’ve all done it. We’ve all thrown food away because we didn’t eat it fast enough.
~According to a survey conducted by the American Chemistry Council, the average American household throws out $640 of food each year.~
2. Save Money
A 2015 Bureau of Labor Statistics report concluded the average American household spent $4,015 on groceries in 2015, resulting in 16% waste due to spoiled goods. At first glance, this percentage may seem insignificant. However, when considered collectively, this number equates to a whopping 80 billion tons of waste each year.
3. Healthier Lifestyle
Produce consumed from farmer’s markets is more nutritious simply because nonlocal produce travel thousands of miles and takes at least a week to reach its retail destination. This journey doesn’t even include shelf time in the supermarket. Fruits and vegetables begin to lose nutritional value within three days. So in order for bulk import farmers to compensate for lag time, crops are harvested early. Local produce harvested during prime picking time reaps the most nutritious bounty. Produce nutrients are optimal when consumed within the first week of harvest.
~The Institute of Food Research reports that fresh vegetables traveling long distances lose up to 45 percent of their nutritional value between being picked and landing in a supermarket.~
4. Reduces carbon footprint
Supporting local farmer’s markets equates to fewer food miles by reducing emissions from transport vehicles, including airplanes, ships, and trucks. Conventional food distribution uses more fuel and emits more carbon dioxide than local and regional systems. Local food systems, on the other hand, rely on a geographically desirable network of small family farms. Most are sustainably operated translating into minimized pesticide use, no-till compositing agriculture practices, minimized transport to consumers, and virtually no packaging.
~A comparison between locally grown and conventionally grown produce found locally grown produce travels about 50 miles to reach the consumer’s table half a day from harvest, while conventionally grown produce travels 1,500 miles and reaches the table 13 days past harvest.~
Indeed it’s awesome to have access to mangos, strawberries or blackberries all-year-round. The truth is though, not only do we cheat our bodies of essential nutrients lost during travel time, buying produce from across the world is a detriment to our local farmers. If we buy produce from a different hemisphere we are starving our bodies of essential nutrition and taking money from the pockets of our local communities.
~According to the USDA, since 2006, farmers markets have grown by 180 percent, regional food hubs by 288 percent, and school district participation in farm-to-school programs by 430 percent.~
5. Discover your local culinary treasures
However important reasons one through four are, I’m most passionate about number five because it’s what feeds my soul. I love strolling through transformed makeshift markets shaded with little treasure canopy kiosks. While eclectic aromas ignite my inspiration, each little-shaded tent creates curiosity and offers something new to discover.
Plus, chatting with local artisans create a community connection like no other. This weekend, during a visit to our local farmer’s market at the Veteran’s Market in Santa Rosa, my daughter and I came across fantastic finds featured in the article photos.
When you get to know your farmer, you get to know your food. Heigh ho the derry-o the farmer in the dell. And remember, don’t let the cheese stand alone.