Wednesday, June 26

Why We Loved the Farmers' Market

The health food community talks a lot about the importance of shopping locally, buying organic foods and purchasing pasture-raised meats. So, this past weekend, Brian, Pam and I ventured to the Dallas Farmers' Market to load up on local produce and finally see what all the hype was about. 

We LOVED it. The produce was cheaper than our average visit to Whole Foods, and we could get pasture-raised, sugar-free meats as well as locally made raw cheeses. We were also able to sample most of the produce we bought, including tomatoes, cantaloupe, mangos and grass-fed burgers.

Here are five reasons why shopping at the Farmers' Market is so great, and so much better:

1. Enhanced vitamins and nutrientsIn his post, Why Local Trumps Organic for Nutrient Content, Chris Kresser states, "Most of the produce sold at large supermarket chains is grown hundreds - if not thousands - of miles away, in places like California, Florida and Mexico. This is especially true when you're eating foods that are out of season in your local area (like a banana in mid-winter in New York). Consider this: The average carrot has traveled 1,838 miles to reach your dinner table. The problem with this is that food starts to change as soon as it's harvested and its nutrient content begins to deteriorate. Total vitamin C content of red peppers, tomatoes, apricots, peaches and papayas has been shown to be higher when these crops are picked ripe from the plant."  In summary, shopping from local farmers will often guarantee that your food has more nutrients, and is the best option for fresh food, aside from growing and harvesting it yourself. 

2. Better taste and richnessMark Sisson points out in his post, Is Organic a Scam?, that "a 2010 study examining the fruit quality of three varieties of organic and conventional strawberries found [that]... organic strawberries tended to win the blind taste tests. They were smaller, but denser. They were brighter, which correlated with increased levels of phenolic compounds and other antioxidants. Organic strawberries also had more vitamin C, lasted longer on the shelf, and were more resistant to fungus (despite having not anti-fungals applied)." Having just bought fresh strawberries from the market, we can testify that they are delicious! Fresher is just better.  

3. Food that's in seasonAs Michael Pollen says in his book, In Defense of Food, "When you eat form the farmers' market, you actually eat food that is in season, which is usually when it is most nutritious. Eating in season also tends to diversify your diet... Because you can't buy strawberries, or broccoli, or potatoes 12 months of the year, you'll find yourself experimenting with other foods as they come into the market." We all tend to be creatures of habit, choosing food we're most familiar with. The Farmers' Market helps us expand our pallet and break out of our eating rituals. 

4. Benefits the local economy and food chainMichael Pollen also says in his article, Six rules for Eating Wisely, that shopping at your local farmers' market is critical to "supporting the farmers in your community, helping defend the countryside from sprawl, saving oil by eating food produced nearby and teaching your children that a carrot is a root, not a machine-lathed orange bullet that comes in a plastic bag." Ultimately, "a lot more is going on at the farmers' market than the exchange of money for food." By supporting local agricultures, we're in turn supporting a healthier food chain and lifestyle for not only our communities, but the next generation of health food consumers. 

5. "Shake the hand that feeds you:" 
Alfred Newman once said, "We are living in a world today where lemonade is made from artificial flavors and furniture polish is made from real lemons." At the supermarket it has become increasingly difficult to determine the source and ingredients in the food we're buying. However, at the farmers' market, you're speaking directly to the farmer that has grown your food, allowing you to ask questions about how it was cultivated and when it was picked. As supermarkets and fast food continues to separate us further from our food source, the farmers' market ensures our food is delivered straight from the farm to our dinner table. As Meryl Streep has said, "It's bizarre that the produce manager is more important to my children's health than the pediatrician." 

For those that aren't close to a farmers' market, there are many wonderful options with CSA programs (community supported agriculture programs where you can 'subscribe' to a local farm and receive a weekly box of produce, dairy or other local products). In Dallas, here you can find CSA's closest to you. And, I hear Urban Acres in Dallas is great as well if you interested in joining a co-op

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