Runner’s Plate: 10 Reasons to Go Local
This past weekend marked the first day of spring and summer farmer’s markets in Boston, and I couldn’t be more excited. While the locally grown produce selection is still somewhat limited here in New England, it’s nice to know the bounty of summer is right around the corner. Before we know it the markets will be overflowing with fresh fruits, vegetables, meats, cheeses, and locally made products like breads, honey, and artisan spice and salt mixes.
If you couldn’t already tell, I’m a big fan of farmers markets as well as supporting local farms through CSA shares or even just buying the locally grown (or raised, if you’re talking meat/dairy products) options at the supermarket when possible. I’m certainly not alone on this either. Over the last 20 years, the number of farmers markets in the US have increased almost almost more than 4 fold — from 1,755 in 1994 to 7,864 in 2012. And that’s just the ones listed with the USDA – there are likely quite a few more. Not convinced to make that extra trip to the farmer’s markets this summer? Here are my top 10 reasons to go local:
- Get produce at it’s peak. Since there is no need for the food to travel across the country (or from another country), it’s picked when it’s ready and not a minute before. That means the best flavor and most nutrition possible.
- Promote humane and environmentally friendly treatment of animals. The meat, dairy, and eggs are usually from well treated (aka happily roaming not stuffed in a factory farm barn) and properly fed (usually grass-fed and certainly no corn, antibiotics or hormones in their food) animals. And if you haven’t tasted an egg from the farmers market, you must go get some this week. There is nothing like an egg laid that morning.
- Support the local economy.
- Save some money. The produce can be less expensive. This is not always the case (I won’t get into an economies of scale discussion here), but because there is less travel time from farm to table and no middle man, you can often find some great deals at the farmers markets.
- Learn about where your food came from. Talk to the farmers selling the food and find out their story – they love to share.
- Soak up some vitamin D and enjoy the great outdoors – good for the mind and body all around.
- Learn about and try new foods. Ramps? Fiddle Heads? Yellow cucumbers? Pattypan squash? Often hard to find at most grocery stores, these off-the-beaten-path produce items are worth a try. The farmers will often provide recipe ideas if you ask for them!
- Cut down on your carbon footprint. Less travel travel time means less gas. Plus most smaller local farms use better for the environment farming practices.
- Try the free samples — yes, most market vendors allow you to taste what they’re selling – from fruits and veggies to breads, cheese, hummus, and chocolate – you can sample before commit to buying.
- Meet your neighbors and people from your community.
A note on organic: it’s expensive for farmers to become certified organic, and many smaller farms cannot afford this (or choose not to pay for it). However, many of the smaller local farms do use organic (or very close to it) farming practices. So, if this is a concern for you, feel free to ask the farmer about their farming practices — they will likely be more than happy to share (and may talk your ear off).
To find a farmers market in your town click here.
Do you shop at your farmer’s markets in the summer? What’s your favorite reason to shop local?
(Sarah is a nutrition communication specialist, future registered dietitian, and farmers market addict. She is a certified spin instructor, a triathlete, and an avid runner who regularly participates in road races from 5k to 1/2 marathons. Follow her on Twitter @SpinnerSarah and at her personal blog Food and Fitness Friend.)