Sustainable shopping, 7 tips for the local farmer's market
Personally, I love local farmers' markets. I wish my local farmers' market would be several times per week. Since almost 2 years I'm visiting a local farmers' market just around the corner of where I live. Sustainable shopping is something I learned over the last years. That's why I'd like to share some valuable tips with you. There is much more to it than just finding the cheapest price...
Is there a local farmers' market in your area? In case you don't know, check it online or ask friends who live in the same area as you, those markets are coming up more and more, which I totally love. If you still think that only housewives go to local farmers' markets, you couldn't be more wrong, that maybe was the case 20 years ago. Now sustainable shopping is the trend.
Sustainable Shopping on a local farmers' market - a new trend
When I'm going to the market on Saturday mornings I see a huge variety of people, all kinds of different ages, genders and in different family situations and everyone seems to care about their health, the environment and their general wellbeing. I think it's great that there are no differences for anyone, no matter if a young couple, a single mom with her child, an elderly man or a family with their kids.
That means we all have something in common, it's important to us to eat fresh fruits and vegetables to cherish our body and mind. If that's not reason enough to check out the local farmers market in your area? And I have some great tips for your next or first visit on how to shop sustainable at a local farmers' market.
7 useful tips
#1 Don't shop in a rush. Make sure, you have enough time to do a tour over the market to compare prices & quality. When walking through the market, try to remember where the produce looks the freshest, with the lowest price. Even though prices usually don't differ much, you can still save some money. The quality however can vary quite a bit. After having visited the market several times, you'll know who has the freshest salad and the sweetest strawberries. Additionally, if you take the time to stroll over the market, you already have your daily portion of vitamin D. I definitely prefer walking outside with fresh air instead of in a supermarket with artificial light.
#2 The early bird catches the worm. It's definitely worth to go early because usually towards the end, most of the produce is gone already and only the mushy fruits are left. The vendors don't have an unlimited supply like in a supermarket, where in the end tons of leftovers will be thrown away. Especially on sunny days, many people will go to the market, so on a rainy day, it probably won't make a big difference if you're going a bit later. If you're late one day and you can't find what you are looking for, ask the vendor, sometimes they still have some more produce in their vans. One part of sustainable shopping is, if the farmers produce sustainably, we as a buyer have to be flexible if a certain product isn't available.
#3 Bring cloth bags or other reusable bags. Obviously we want to harm the environment as less as possible. Most of the produce I buy, I put it loosely into my bags without packing it into small plastic bags. Anyway, in the fridge it's best to store it loosely too, so no packaging needed. I know that it's not possible to do that with everything, like when you buy blueberries for example, or you could bring your own box. For the sake of sustainable shopping, you should try to avoid plastic & paper bags as much possible.
#4 Write a grocery list of what you need for the week. Try to buy everything you need in terms of produce from the local farmers' market, that is a hugely important factor to shop sustainable. Like that, you support small & local businesses, as in supermarkets you can usually only find huge groups of companies. Local businesses that don't want to connect with these huge groups often struggle to make it through the month. In these small businesses, processes and the work itself is not as automised but the farmers work with heart & soul and accept lower profit margins but are able to provide a more authentic product.
#5 is related to #4. Buying your produce on a local market, you automatically buy what's in season. Usually on a local farmers market, you only find whatever the farmer is growing. But why is that important? Fruits & vegetables that are in season mostly comes from your area. That means, it didn't have to travel thousands of kilometers to get to your local supermarket, which reduces carbon dioxide emissions considerably. Fruits like mango & pineapple almost always originate from South-American countries. That means, the fruits have to be harvested before they are ripe, so they are ripe by the time they arrive in your supermarket, which has a negative influence on the taste too. I'd recommend you check online what's currently in season in terms of produce, like this calendar for example.
#6 Profit from the farmers knowledge. Try new fruits & veggies that you have never tasted before. In case you are not sure about how to prepare something, just ask the farmer. The farmers are happy when you show interest in their products, no one knows their produce as good as the person who grew it. Maybe you even find a new, favourite vegetable. Just ask, what the farmer can recommend you today, maybe the strawberries are extra sweet today.
#7 organic or not organic, that's the question... That's a much discussed topic on how to shop sustainable on a local farmers market. I can only tell you my opinion to this topic. If money isn't an issue, then, go ahead and buy everything in organic-quality. If you have money constraints though, then there is a great rule you can use. The EWG ( Environmental Working Group) publishes every year a list with the "Dirty Dozen", which are the 12 vegetable & fruit sorts that contain the highest amount of pesticides. The "Clean Fifteen" is the list with the fruits & veggies that contain the least amount of pesticides. That allows you to decide which fruits and vegetables you should buy in organic quality. Strawberries for example are almost always part of the Dirty Dozen list.
To sum it up, try to buy local and what's in season. If you're not sure about something, go ahead and ask the vendor/farmer, he'll be able to give you all the information you need. An advantage that a supermarket generally cannot provide. Sustainable shopping for me is, if I have the choice between an organic pineapple from Costa Rica and local apples, I always take the apples. Often even locally produced products have organic quality but the farmers might not have the certification.
If you're still looking how to use the produce from your sustainable shopping trip, I can recommend this Kung Pao Cauliflower recipe.
Do you have any other tips to do sustainable shopping on a local farmers market? Which of my mentioned points are you already following and which you think about implementing?
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