When you visit your local farmers market, odds are you’ll find yourself walking away with good vibes. The sights, sounds and smells of local markets provide a feast for the senses. And as a bonus, you’re supporting local farmers and small businesses, as well as interacting with other members of the community. What’s not to love?
Farmers markets also allow us to develop a relationship with the people who are growing our food, says Michelle Eaton, a Registered Dietitian with ThedaCare.
“Knowing who’s growing our food and where it’s coming from gives us confidence that the fruits and vegetables we’re consuming are wholesome, safe, and loaded with great nutrition and flavor,” she says.
Throughout the years, farmers markets have become increasingly popular. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the number of farmers markets nationwide jumped from about 1,750 in 1994 to more than 8,700 in 2019.
ThedaCare is proud to sponsor several community farmers markets, including the Downtown Appleton Farm Market, Berlin Farmers & Artists Market, Shawano Farmers Market, and Waupaca Farmers Market. Our Life Inspired movement is dedicated to creating a healthier future for all. Encouraging healthy eating habits and lifestyles plays an important role in that.
As we honor National Farmers Market Week, taking place Aug. 6-12, 2023, let’s look at some of the many benefits of buying local food and supporting community agriculture.
1. Freshness and Flavor
One of the biggest advantages of local food is the freshness it offers. Since goods don’t have to travel long distances to reach the consumer, local produce is often harvested at its peak ripeness. Simply put, this results in better, fresher-tasting food. This helps ensure that the food we enjoy is at the height of its nutritional value and taste, making our meals more enjoyable and nourishing.
2. Nutritional Value
The moment food is harvested, it begins to lose essential nutrients. By opting for local food, we reduce the time it spends in transit and on supermarket shelves. This helps preserve its nutritional content. It also means we receive a higher concentration of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. This promotes better overall health and well-being.
3. Support for Local Economies
Purchasing local food supports small-scale farmers and businesses in the community. This, in turn, helps strengthen the local economy by keeping money circulating within the region. When you support local farmers, you contribute to the growth of sustainable agriculture and create job opportunities for your neighbors. Through this, we create more resilient and self-reliant communities.
4. Environmental Impact
Choosing local food reduces the carbon footprint associated with food transportation, which is a major contributor to greenhouse gas emissions. When food travels long distances, it requires significant amounts of fuel and energy, leading to negative environmental impacts. By choosing local, we contribute to mitigating climate change and promoting eco-friendly practices.
5. Biodiversity and Crop Varieties
Local food systems often emphasize traditional and heirloom varieties of fruits and vegetables. In supporting local farmers who grow diverse crops, we help preserve the biodiversity of our food supply. This is crucial for maintaining strong ecosystems, adapting to changing climate conditions, and ensuring food security for future generations.
6. Food Safety and Transparency
Knowing where our food comes from and how it’s produced gives us greater control over its safety and quality. Local food systems often have shorter supply chains. This makes it easier to trace the origin of our food and helps ensure it meets high safety standards.
Embracing local food not only brings tremendous benefits to your personal health but also contributes to the prosperity and well-being of local communities and the environment.
“We’re fortunate to have access to a great, family-friendly farmers markets in our area,” Eaton says. “Be sure to explore and pick out something new to try next time you’re there.”