Today is the last day of Memorial Day weekend. Growing up, this was about the time that every kid in school began to get summer fever (a constant itching that forces you to dream about being anywhere but the classroom) as those final days of school approached. As an educator, I can tell you that summer fever is not isolated to students alone. I think they put something in the water or the cardboard pizza they serve for lunch.
For culinary enthusiasts, though, Memorial Day usually means that local Farmers Markets will be starting, bringing fresh products directly from the farm to the table. Here are my top five reasons why you should head to a Farmers Market near you.
5. They’re fun. This sounds odd, but going to a Farmers Market is just as entertaining as a county fair, a day at the park, or an art exhibit. There are crowds of people from all walks of life, the sun shines on your shoulders, and you can spend an hour or two filtering through the various tents, talking with the farmers about their products and picking up some tremendous deals. What I enjoy most, though, is the selection is ever changing and different farms will show up on different weekends. Need more convincing of the fun? It’s more enjoyable than a trip to a florescent lit supermarket crowded with sweaty, BO riddled people.
4. You’ll find things that you can’t in a grocery store. Farmers are resourceful people and often sell artisan style goods such as honey, flowers, teas, and bread that are superior in quality and can only be found out of their farms. Best of all, farmers grow things that grocery stores don’t keep in their produce section because the mass market can’t / won’t support it. I bought callaloo (a Caribbean green) last season on a recommendation from the farmer, and it blew my mind. As a side note, don’t be afraid of purple vegetables; purple carrots and potatoes taste the same, but have additional nutrional value.
3. Supporting farmers is better for the environment. You know that produce that’s in your crisper right now? It was probably shipped from more than 100 or maybe even 1000 miles away just to get to your table. That means more fuel burned to get it from there to where you are. Buy local and save the environment one CO2 molecule at a time.
2. Farmers and their families get the money directly. Farmers market wipe out the middleman and let you purchase directly from the source. That means more money for the farmer and less money for the corporations who give six figure bonuses to their executives for putting small farms out of business. From a humanitarian stand point, the extra couple of cents a pound you spend on buying fresh, organic local produce at the Farmers Market is worth every penny.
1. The food just tastes better when its fresh. Most anything you purchase from a Farmers Market was picked, baked, or made within a matter of days. The sooner food comes out of the ground or the oven and onto your plate, the better it tastes. And occasionally, a real life, honest to goodness fisherman will be at the market. Ignore the price per pound and treat yourself. Seafood will never taste as good!
If you don’t know where to find a Farmers Market near you, head to Local Harvest or Culinate (the farmers market finder is on the right side of the main page, halfway down). Local Harvest has proven incredibly valuable in locating fresh produce and products even in the winter months. For some Farmers Markets, they provide a list of when certain produce and goods will be available and on which days.
Culinate is updated a little more frequently and provides a comprehensive list of Farmers Markets on a handy Google Map display and will give you driving directions in a few short clicks. I find this one a little more user friendly, but why use only one site, when two are twice as good.