By Monika Jacobson, RDN & Natalia Walczak, St. Louis University Dietetics Student
One of my favorite Summer activities is exploring local farmer’s markets to find the freshest produce & tasty treats from all the vendors. It truly is my Happy Place. When I travel, I love finding the local markets to see all the differences from one location to another. Fresh tropical fruits in Hawaii or fresh egg pasta in Italy-it’s all SUCH a novelty! The farmer’s markets can be a helpful and sustainable place to do your weekly grocery shopping. Learning to eat locally and seasonally has plenty of positive effects on your health and beyond. Even when farmer’s markets here in Spokane close for the late Fall/Winter, you can learn how to buy fruits and vegetables that are in season. Here are some reasons why shopping locally and seasonally can improve you and your family’s nutrition:
- Taste and quality
Local farms harvest their produce at peak ripeness. That means that you are getting the freshest, best tasting produce you can get. It’s like eating a strawberry that tastes like the epitome of what a strawberry SHOULD taste like, not the ones we can buy in January that are imported from thousands of miles away. Local farms also often use organic methods to grow their produce even if they are not labelled as such. The process for becoming a Certified Organic Farm takes time and money and therefore some farms choose to utilize organic practices even if they don’t have the official certification.
- Eating seasonally
Farmers markets sell produce that is in season right now. If you choose to shop at chain grocery stores, use these handy lists to try and buy fruits and vegetables that are in season now. Cycling different fruits and vegetables based on the seasons promotes variety, balance, and optimal nutrition in our diets.
- Meet the farmer and support local businesses
Going to farmer’s markets allows you to learn more about how the produce was grown and how best to use the food you are buying. Who planted all those seeds? Who worked tirelessly long hours during planting and harvest time? It also allows you to put money back into you own community and stay connected to local small businesses. Supporting small businesses has never been so important!
- More ecologically friendly
Shopping at farmer’s markets and in-season is more ecologically friendly. Produce from large grocery chains travel on average 1,500 miles from farm to plate and even farther if it is out of season and being imported from other countries. Shopping locally and seasonally helps decrease your carbon footprint and be a more conscious consumer.
- Improved nutrition
The nutritional quality of produce is determined by the way that a fruit was grown, ripened, and harvested. Produce that must travel long distances is harvested before it is ripe and is artificially often ripened with chemicals and can have a negative effect on vitamin and mineral content. Local farmers also tend to use less harmful pesticides to treat their crops than large agricultural companies.
- Buy in bulk
You can get the best deals at farmers markets when you buy in bulk. If you are afraid the fresh produce will go bad, you can practice new ways of preserving food such as canning, drying, and freezing. Be creative with the produce that you buy!