Local farmers markets are springing up everywhere, and many are enjoying the benefits associated with being able to drive a few miles to pick up fresh produce and other products.

Are you shopping at your local farmers market? If not, here are some great reasons why you should.

1. Farm Fresh: Fruits and vegetables you find at the grocery store are often several days old before they even reach the produce aisle. Farmers market produce is nearly the antithesis of grocery store fruits and vegetables. In most cases, the owner of the stand picked it just that morning, so you know the food is as fresh as you can get, outside of growing it yourself.

2. Organic and non-GMO: Many farmers participating in local farmers markets use organic methods to grow their produce. Most label it as such, so you can be certain you are purchasing chemical-free products. They also are more likely to use non-modified seeds. Organic farming is better for the soil, the environment, and your body.

3. Seasonal: There is a move in the United States toward a more seasonal style of eating where one eats what is locally available in season. Some nutritionists and scientists suggest eating seasonally available foods is better for your body, because humans ate seasonal produce for thousands of years before refrigerated shipping changed all that.

4. Ripe: Offerings at the farmers market are generally picked at the peak of ripeness when the plants’ natural sugars are at their peak. Eating produce when it is ripe not only tastes better, but it also provides the best nutrition possible.

5. More Nutritious: One look at the vivid colors of produce found at the farmers market, and you will be able to tell just how nutritious the fruits and vegetables are. Compare that to produce at the grocery store, and you will see that supermarket fruits and vegetables pale in comparison.

6. Taste Better: Try this. Buy a tomato from the supermarket and a gorgeous heirloom tomato from the farmers market. Now taste them side-by-side to see what you think. Produce from the farmers market almost always tastes better. This is because it is picked at the peak of ripeness and is incredibly fresh when it gets to you.

7. Non-industrial: Just like everything else in this country, industrialized farming has become normal. These giant factory farms grow massive amounts of produce, shipping it all over the world. Giant corporations run industrial farms, driving local family farms out of business. Buying from a farmers market supports local farmers, and their families.

8. Affordable: For the sheer nutrition you get from farmers market produce compared to supermarket produce, it is a great value. Grocery stores tend to charge a much higher price for organic fruits and vegetables. At the farmers market, however, they are typically not much more expensive than conventionally grown produce, and the benefits to your health are likely to save you money on healthcare expenses over the long-term.

9. Variety: The farmers market offers a dizzying array of fruits and vegetables. Industrial farms tend to grow only a few varieties of popular vegetables. Small local farms, on the other hand, tend to favor variety, offering fruits and vegetables you cannot find in the produce section of your local supermarket.

10. Support Local Economies: Most farmers market produce is grown within 100 miles of the market. This means that the farms are a source of local jobs and are likely to spend money they make on their produce in the local economy.

11. Support Local Family Farms: There is no doubt local family farms have decreased in numbers over the years, succumbing to the high cost of running a farm and increasingly stiff competition from giant corporate-run farms that produce massive amounts of extremely cheap produce. Purchasing fruits and vegetables from farmers markets supports local family farms, giving them the valuable capital they need to keep operating and providing consumers an alternative to mass-produced foods.

12. Conserves Fuel: Many supermarkets receive their produce from hundreds or thousands of miles away. This involves the significant use of fossil fuels for shipping on refrigerated trucks and rail cars.

13. Better for the Environment: Along with conserving fossil fuels, small family farms produce less environmental waste in the form of carbon monoxide, pesticide use, and chemical fertilizers. They are also less likely to utilize giant processing and sorting machines that contribute to environmental decay.

14. Provenance: When you shop at the farmers market, you know where your food has been. You can talk with the farm stand workers to learn about the farm’s growing and processing practices.

15. Social: The farmers market is a great place to gather. Visiting is a fun family activity, and you can meet members of your community, making it a terrific way to while away a fall afternoon.

Carmen Keith, MD, IFMCP

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