The 10 hidden benefits to shopping at your local farmers’ market
Farmers’ market benefits? Your supporting local farmers, growers and producers who sell things they have grown or made in their local community. They provide a viable local route to market for local produce and are a great place to source fresh, real food. The concept is nothing new and indeed before the advent of the supermarkets in the 1950s, all shopping was brought at local high street shops and markets.
In the 1990s the “big four” dominated sales of food and produce. However, low farm prices brought particular difficulties for those who worked the land. For this reason, local farmers, growers and producers began to look for an alternative and viable route to market to supplement their income. The idea of farmers’ markets was born and then grew exponentially as a result of its own success. There are now thought to be around 750 farmers’ markets through the UK according to the Farmers Retail and Marketing Association (FARMA).
#1 Buying Local
When you buy your produce from local producers, you are supporting the local economy. In turn, this money will be re-invested in the local economy by the traders and producers and keeps the world turning. When money benefits the local economy, all thrive through a higher standard of living and visible improvements to the town. We wrote about this here
#2 Know, Like & Trust
Buying from a local producer cuts out the “middlemen”. It gives you the consumer a chance to know the person from whom you are buying and to talk about their produce. Most sellers are only too happy to discuss provenance. And better still, many local producers offer the chance to “try before you buy”. This is a real market benefit.
#3 Fair Price
Buying local means that farmers, growers and artisan makers get a fair price for their produce. This is because we are selling directly to the public and not to a wholesaler who is seeking to make their own mark upon a product.
#4 Efficiency Savings
Buying local means considerable savings are possible on overheads such as transport and handling. The distance to market is reduced and the energy footprint of produce is also reduced. There are no energy costs of land, buildings and power as there are no overhead costs to accommodate. All of these, in turn, have a positive environmental impact.
#5 No Artificial Preservatives
An add-on to the above (#4) but equally as important. Local produce does not require artificial preservatives to prolong shelf life. The full impact of these chemicals is not known but given the choice, food without chemicals and additives would seem a natural choice.
#6 More and Better Choice
At first glance, hydroponics and access to global food markets would seem to offer endless choice to the consumer. The year-round availability of strawberries and other fresh fruit is seen to be a huge convenience. But is this really choice when pitted against Mother Nature and her infinite variety of fruit and vegetables that come into ripening by season? As one glut of fruit and vegetables comes to its natural end another variety comes forward to take pride of place. The ebb and flow from first strawberries in summer to the apples and blackberries of autumn, from pumpkins and squash in autumn to kale and leeks in January. Simple real food, as nature intended. Seasonal food tastes better eaten in accordance with the seasons too!
Recent food scares highlighted how far away from the principle of “know, like and trust”, we as consumers had come. If unscrupulous supermarkets and wholesalers were prepared to put horse meat in burgers exactly how far would they be prepared to go? Access to local producers gives us all traceability and provenance and the very pleasing possibility of accountability. There’s much greater transparency and traceability of food and ingredients.
#8 Fresher Produce
Fresh produce spends less time in transit. This means it will get to market faster and fresher. The taste will, therefore, be superior. Food cooked with fresh ingredients will have extra flavour. Why compromise? Cut-price convenience may be costing us more than we thought…
#9 Replace Cutbacks on Deli Counters at Supermarkets
The newspapers this week are full of stories about Tescos, cutbacks and job losses. Deli, fresh meat and fish counters will be the first to go and if supermarkets are stopping selling fresh food, local farmers’ markets will fill this gap. It’s a quiet revolution. Supermarkets could become obsolete for fresh food in favour of boxed and tinned staples and junk food where of course mark up is even higher!
#10 Pulling Power
Farmers’ markets are a great place to get together and find out more about the local community. Catch up with your neighbours and talk to your local food producers. Then go and get a cuppa from a local cafe and enjoy a meal out. Farmer’s markets grow through local support. Why not become a locavore and join in all the fun!