It wasn't until I started research for my next book Science in My Basket which includes a page on Farmers Markets, that I understood how important markets are to farmers and communities. Of course, I have always loved the atmosphere, smells and produce, including the baked goods! National Farmers Market week falls around the second week in August, but I think we should always celebrate, support, and recognize their value all year long.
WHAT I LEARNED:
Many farmers solely rely on the markets to sell their produce and goods.
Farmers often get a return of about 80% at the market versus 10% at stores after marketing, packaging, and transporting costs.
Communities benefit as the markets offer job opportunities and nutritional foods to those in need. Many markets allow use of SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) and WIC ( Women, Infants and children).
According to Studies done by the Dept. of Agriculture, farmers markets have "helped to expand access to food and most states declare them to be essential services."
It leaves less of a carbon footprint due to less transport time.
The produce is often more nutritious and flavorful, because it is seasonal and designed for flavor, and not for traveling long distances or to last out of season.
Most importantly, they are kid-friendly and connects the community as a social experience.
TIPS AND ADVICE:
Not all produce is organic or pesticide free. Get to know the farmers. Talk to them about their practices, and they usually love to give tips for how to cook and use the produce.
It is an opportunity to try new foods, especially for children who might otherwise be picky.
Make sure it is seasonal. If, for example, you find asparagus in September, it is probably not grown locally. Try to buy those foods that are in season.
I love that it often offers multicultural and diverse experiences. We visited one in Santa Fe and enjoyed the variety of peppers, talking to locals, and listening to the street music. Another great experience for kids!
To find markets anywhere in the US or near you visit the USDA National Farmers Market Directory.
For great RECIPES visit Taste of Home's 55 Summer Farmers Market recipes.