Farmer’s Markets: Are they worth the effort?

I have been to my share of farmer’s markets over the years and have always enjoyed the experience, but lately my opinion has changed from them being an occasional delicacy to being a weekly commitment as important as brushing my teeth. Here’s what shifted and why I’m so glad it did.

Dispelled Belief # 1 – It’s Inconvenient

I have always been the kind of person that needs a plan for everything, food is no exception. In order to stock my fridge I have to know what I’m planning to cook, what I’ll need for each meal, and how much will last me until the next round of grocery shopping.  I write a list, I get everything I need at one place and I’m set for the week. To me it was a hassle to go to farmer’s markets and not have the vegetables available that I had on my list. I would pick up a few things and then I would still have to make a trip to the grocery store. Or I would buy things that weren’t on my list and then have to come up with recipes to use them. To me it was just too much hassle and not enough benefit.

Since then my priorities have changed a bit. Having a plan has become less important and knowing where my food is coming from and how it’s being grown has become top priority. Letting go of control has been a life lesson that just so happens to have spilled over nicely into the food department. Let’s face it, life throws curve balls. The more willing we are to deviate from the plan and be spontaneous and flexible, the greater the chances of keeping happiness and our wits about us. I have learned that if I know how to make a few basic dishes, I can substitute almost any vegetable and pull off a great meal. I’ve even gone as far as putting Brussels sprouts in my breakfast skillet….yes, Brussels sprouts, for breakfast….and it was delicious.

The benefit of never knowing what you’re going to get is that sometimes you discover something wonderful that you had no idea you were missing out on. Point in case, my local farmer offers fresh unpasteurized goat kefir! Umm, yes please! This is not your typical grocery store kefir, this is fresh, free of additives and unspoiled by damaging heating and packaging practices kefir. I can’t even tell you how delicious this fresh kefir is. I mix it with blueberries for a quick snack or blend it with blueberries and a frozen banana for a desert like smoothie (substitute any fresh fruit). Fresh unprocessed dairy is chock full of so many probiotics for a really great boost in digestive health.

It is also my new and only go-to for fresh, organic chicken. No antibiotics, no hormones, pasture raised and fed a non-GMO, raw grain and garden green diet. I don’t eat much meat so this one is in my freezer till I make a plan for him, but I’m really excited to taste the difference in this local humanely raised meat.

Dispelled Belief #2 – It’s More Expensive

Yes it is, and for good reason, and in my opinion, well worth it. As I looked back through my receipt my eyes got wide as I saw the cost of nectarines, then I remembered the wise words of very intelligent young man. Birke Baehr in a TED talk about our present food system said, “We can either pay the farmer, or we can pay the hospital.” I couldn’t agree more and I most certainly choose to pay the farmer. Then I took a bite of said nectarine and O..M..G. It was the juiciest, sweetest, most delicious piece of fruit I have ever eaten, I kid you not. I have become a nectarine fiend.

I can absolutely taste the difference in all the food I get from the farmer’s market compared to that of the food I get at the grocery store. #1-It’s organic, and I trust that it is what they say it is. In the grocery store I sometimes have the feeling that normal food is labeled organic and slapped with an inflated price tag with no intention of being truthful. I’ll never know, but at the farmers market I can actually taste the difference. #2-It’s local, so not only am I supporting my local economy and neighbors, but I also get the benefit of eating food that has not been picked well before its ripe date and has the time to grow to maturity and ultimate taste and nutritional value. The difference is fully evident in the taste.

Added Benefit – Learn About New Foods

At this week’s farmer’s market there was a new vegetable on display. I had never heard of it or seen it before. Thoughtfully, my farmer had a sign up to educate people of this hardly seen but readily abundant plant. Its name, purslane. To my delightful surprise it is high in fiber, vitamins and minerals. Most notable is its high omega-3 fatty acid content, higher in fact than some fish oils. It is also one of the highest sources of vitamin-A among green leafy vegetables. I have been adding it to my smoothies and fresh homemade salsa. My farmer also had take home papers of 5 recipes for purslane including pesto, stir fried, pickled and salad…Pretty cool if you ask me.

The potential to have a good introduction to new and unusual foods is much greater since you have the opportunity to talk to the grower, build a relationship, and get valuable information about the food, right there, on the spot.

Since its locally grown food, you start to eat with the normal cycles of food growth, instead of eating food shipped from the tropics in the middle of winter. Your body becomes more in-tune with the natural cycle of weather, eating heartier foods in the winter and more fruits in the summer.

To top it all off, another great benefit is I no longer have to flex my will power every time I pass the ice cream isle at the grocery store, or the candy isle, or the cookie isle, or the cake section….

I really could go on and on. I’m so happy to be committed to my once a week shopping at the farmer’s market. Here’s wishing you feel inspired to give your local farmer’s market a check out and find it as delightful and fulfilling as I have.

Cheers!

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