Farmer’s markets are generally regarded as the healthiest way to purchase produce, other than growing your own. I’ve often heard people say organic is good, but buying at a farmer’s market is better. There is truth to this, however, there are some issues that need to be looked out for when shopping at a farmer’s market.
Buying from a farmer’s market is healthiest, not necessarily just because it’s locally grown, but because it’s freshly harvested. The closer you eat a food to it’s harvesting, the more nutrients are obtained and the less the food has been spoiled through oxidation by air. When food has been purchased from a grocery store, the fruit or vegetable likely was harvested days or weeks ago, and has lost many of its nutrients. It also may have been harvested before ripening, causing a loss of valuable vitamins and minerals. Farmers at markets generally sell fruit and vegetables harvested at its ripest.
There are some disadvantages to buying at a farmer’s market. Unless labeled organic, there is no way of knowing if the farmer used pesticides or fertilizers. You can pretty much assume that they did unless they claim they use natural farming methods, in which case you’ll need to take their word for it. Another concern is the use of gmo seeds. Buying local doesn’t necessarily mean you can avoid gmos. With the growth of the company Monsanto and their monopolization of seeds, it’s a possibility that these gmo seeds have made their way into our local farms and even our own personal gardens.
The best way to counter these concerns is to do a little research. Local Harvest is a great resource for finding local farmer’s markets. In the description of your local farmer’s markets, there may be information on whether there are farmers that sell organic produce or not. Find the names of the farmers selling, and check out their website to find out more about their farming practices. Better yet, see if they offer a tour of their farm. Ask the farmers if they farm naturally without pesticides and fertilizers. If they don’t, express the need for more farmers that do. As the demand increases for organic produce, more farmers will be open to this. Also be sure to ask:
- Do you use heirloom seeds (a seed from a plant passed down from previous generations)? If not, where are your seeds purchased from?
- What are your farming practices for fertilizing?
- Do you use synthetic or natural pesticides?
- What is the length of time between harvesting and selling your produce?
- Do you harvest your produce once its fully ripened?
I love shopping at my local farmer’s market, so my goal is not to discourage this. Just be sure to ask questions and do the research so you can be sure you are eating clean.