Shopping at the farmers market has a way of changing your mind about your food. Some incredible lessons emerged from that first visit, which started my own personal food revolution.
My first trip to our local farmers market was an eye opener in many ways. Before this experience I had never ventured away from my beloved grocery store, which contained everything I could ever need all packed up.
The grocery store is predictable. The produce is bundled into the perfect proportions, shiny with wax, and gleaming under the most glorious beams of light. The meats and cheeses are sourced from farms thousands of miles away and processed in commercial factories.
The fruits and vegetables at the grocery store are otherworldly. You can get anything your heart desires at any time of year. Neither a blemish nor a bug on it, everything is perfectly ripe, beautiful, and ready to eat.
At the time I had no idea that the produce was not always in season and ready to eat. That it had to be imported from other countries where it was in-season. Nor that it was coated in pesticides, herbicides, and fungicides. It may be fumigated when it gets off the ship from foreign countries, or exposed to radiation to make it safe for consumption, and then coated in artificial waxes to preserve and look appealing.
Once I started researching exactly what went into the food at the grocery store, I decided to start making some changes, and the farmers market was the first stop on that journey.
My first experience at the farmer’s market was shocking, but it opened my eyes and led me to become the homesteader I am today.
7 Lessons Learned Shopping at Farmers Markets
Shopping at the farmer’s market will make you think about the foods you eat. Here are some things you will learn when shopping at a farmers’ market for the first time.
How to Eat in Season
The most important thing I learned when I began shopping farmers markets is food is seasonal. Food at your local farmers market is harvested fresh and local. That means no pumpkins, apples, or melons in April.
Instead, expect to find plenty of spring greens, such as lettuce, spinach, kale, Asian greens, and root veggies such as parsnips, radishes, and scallions. Other spring foods to expect include, maple syrup, eggs, meats, milk, and cheeses.
If you visit the farmers market at least once a month, you will see the availability of produce transition through the growing season. Follow and adapt to the foods that are available and you will naturally transition to seasonal eating.
Produce is Not Perfect
Uniform shaped and perfectly unblemished produce is not realistic. Furthermore, just because the food isn’t perfectly shaped or imperfection free doesn’t mean it won’t taste good or contain the same nourishment.
When I shopped the farmers market for the first time, everything looked unappealing to me. I was used to my food being polished, unblemished, and displayed as if for a photo shoot. There weren’t mechanized spraying machines to leave little droplets of glory on each perfect little leaf.
The bread wasn’t pre-sliced and the cheese wasn’t sold in printed packages with handy nutrition facts. The apples didn’t gleam, the lettuce didn’t shine, the carrots still had their tops on, and some of them even had specks of dirt on them! Dirt! As if it came from the earth! Oh wait…
Meat Comes from Animals
Of course I knew that meat, fish, and seafood came from animals and sea creatures, but I’d become accustomed to buying perfect little cuts of meat plastic wrapped in styrofoam packages.
Walking into the meat and fish shelter was a rather shocking experience for me. These fish still had their heads on! They weren’t perfectly cut into steaks, or coated in marinades and placed on a perfect, hygienic, styrofoam trays. These fish were staring at me with their gooey, dead grey eyes.
The meat vendors were selling whole shanks of various animals, as well as hearts, livers, and gizzards. Everything was on the bone, with skin intact or sold whole.
I’d become so accustomed to seeing perfect little cuts of meat for sale, not a bone, organ, or foot in sight. Now I was experiencing what meat really looks like.
Meats, eggs, and fish at the farmers market come from the folks that raise the animals locally, humanely, and without growth hormones. Fish and seafood comes from those who fish the waters sustainably.
You Will Want to Try Weird Stuff
I discovered so many types of produce that I couldn’t find in the grocery store. I found long pure white Chinese eggplants that tasted less bitter and had less seeds than the standard deep purple eggplant. I discovered leafy lettuce greens had much more flavor than your typical iceberg lettuce.
I was introduced to so many vegetables and meats that I would have never considered purchasing before. Farmers Markets are a great opportunity to step outside your habits and try new things.
Locally Grown Food Tastes Better
The first thing I noticed when I tasted tomatoes from the farmers’ market is how juicy, sweet, and full with flavor. There was simply no comparison to grocery store tomatoes.
When you buy produce from grocery stores, you are buying produce that has been adapted for commercial farming. Grocery store fruits and vegetables are developed for high production including longer shelf life so they can withstand shipping long distances. That compromises both freshness and taste.
Fruit and vegetables at the farmers’ market are harvested at peak ripeness only days before it is setup on tables for you to purchase. You can also find a diverse selection of produce that you may not see at the regular grocery stores.
Supporting Local Farmers Feels Good
By shopping farmers’ markets, you are supporting your local growers, farmers, and their families.
As I make my purchases, the produce is handed to me from the very same family that stuck the seeds into the soil, cared for the tiny plants through rough weather, pests, and problems, and harvested the bounty.
The meats and seafood came from people who raised the animals humanely and naturally on pasture and fished locally and sustainably.
Everyone was friendly and answered all my questions from how to pick the ripest tomato, to how they raised their livestock, and even sharing recipes.
May Inspire You to Grow Your Own Food
My first experience at the farmers market was shocking, but it lead me to become the homesteader I am today. My entire food world has changed for the better, and now that I’ve seen how good it is, I could never go back.
Making the switch from grocery store to farmers market allowed me to take our food revolution to the next level. It inspired me to start growing a vegetable garden, raising backyard chickens, and foraging for wild edibles.
How to Find Farmers Markets in Your Area
Many local farmers markets go beyond produce and meats. You may also find, baked goods, cheese, crafts, flowers, honey, jams, jellies, maple syrup, plants, soap, and wool all produced locally. Check out these links to find a farmers market in your area:
- LocalHarvest.org – Search by town, state, or zip code to find farmers markets in your area.
- USDA Farmers Market Directory – Search by zip code
So I encourage you to take that next step and visit your local farmers market. Meet your farmer and shake his or her hand. Thank them for working hard to provide you with food that was ethically raised and produced. Support them, with your wallet and your favor. Be part of the revolution!
Do you shop at your local farmers markets? What’s your favorite discovery?