Updated: a day ago
When I lived in Berlin, I used to go to the farmers' market once per month, weather permitting. There was something drawing me to it. I guess I always saw it as a multi-sensory experience. There was something about the smells, the colors, the flavors.
Last weekend I decided to get back to this favorite habit of mine, which was unexpectedly disrupted due to the Coronavirus pandemic. Farmers' markets are one of the businesses that have borne the brunt of this pandemic. However, the one I visited was still enough to remind me of all the good reasons to shop locally.
1. The best thing in farmers' markets is the direct access to fresh and local foods. Produce sold on farmers' markets are fully ripen in the fields and are brought directly to you without intermediaries or long waiting times. This increases their nutritional value as they land on your table right after harvest, which takes place at the peak of the growing season. This is when fruits and vegetables have the highest nutritional content and the best flavor.
2. Shopping at farmers' markets is the perfect way to support small local farming businesses. Since large agribusinesses dominate the food industry, supporting small business owners who offer high-quality products is more important than ever. Shopping at a farmers' market may not make a huge difference to you and it may feel almost like going to a high-quality organic supermarket (it won't - it's certainly much better), but it really makes a difference to local farmers as they take 100% of the money you spend on their products. This does not seem to be the case when their products are sold in regular supermarkets when all they receive is a small percentage of the total value of the product.
3. Shopping at farmers' markets also gives you the chance to connect with nature. Let's face it, most of us are city dwellers. Visiting your local market and seeing or smelling different kinds of products makes you feel closer to nature: You start noticing the cycles of nature and you soon become an expert in seasonal products. Don't be surprised if you soon find yourself wondering why bananas are sold in January in large supermarkets!
4. With colorful vegetables and fresh fruit all around you, you may soon feel like setting your culinary imagination free. The wide range of produce along with the cooking tips you can exchange with farmers and visitors of the market is one of the reasons people love spending their Saturday on a local farmers' market. One of the best cooking tips for asparagus was given to me by a farmer in Berlin - he knew his produce and he surely knew how to help me cook it in the best way possible. (The cooking didn't really work out as expected, but he was not the one to blame.)
5. These casual chats by the stalls are a great opportunity for some socialising with people who value high-quality food. Sharing tips while enjoying some of the food sold at the market creates a sense of a community. Since the money goes back to local farmers, this sense of giving something back to the community is fostered.
One more reason
Farmers selling at markets understand and appreciate the value of food. That's why many farmers' markets are working closely with food banks to donate any leftover food at the end of the day. That's once again an act towards the community as not only does it prevent food from going to waste but it also feeds many people in a society where approximately 40% of the food is wasted of thrown away.
So, what are your plans for Saturday?