Nutrition Articles

A Beginner's Guide to the Farmers Market

The How and Why of Buying from Local Growers

From hot summer days through those cool early fall months, farmers markets are in full swing, yielding a bounty of beautiful, fresh, local produce. Visiting a farmers market is a lovely weekend outing, but there are many other reasons to bypass the market for your weekly fresh fruits and vegetables. 

While grocery stores boast convenience, the absence of seasons (strawberries and tomatoes are available in the heart of winter and imported bananas sit on shelves year round) and rock bottom prices, why would anyone shop at a farmers market? Here are a few reasons.

1. Enjoy Better Tasting Food. First and foremost, the produce is unbeatably fresh. Forget buying veggies that sat in a refrigerated truck for three days to make their way across the country. No longer will you bring home fruit that traveled across an ocean to reach your kitchen. Typically, produce at the farmers market was harvested at the last possible moment, at peak ripeness. The flavors, textures and colors are noticeably better compared with most supermarket produce.

2. Get More Nutrition for Your Money. Generally speaking, produce that is fresh and local is nutritionally superior to the fruits and veggies in many grocery stores. Many factors affect the nutrient quality of these foods, such as when the crop was harvested, how it was grown, how it was handled and processed, and how long it's been sitting on the supermarket shelf. All of these factors can decrease nutrient quality. Farm-fresh food goes through fewer nutrient-diminishing steps and gets from the earth to your table sooner. This means it is probably richer in antioxidants, vitamins and minerals (thanks to less transport, processing and storage time).

3. Meet Your Farmer. When you’re at the market, you can pick up some produce—and pick the farmers’ brains, too! The same people who grow the food are usually present to sell their crops at the market, and they have a wealth of knowledge to share. They can tell you how it was grown, how much longer it will be available this season, how to grow the same fruits or vegetables in your garden, and how to store and prepare the food that you buy. All you have to do is ask. You can’t afford not to take advantage of one-on-one contact with local farmers.

4. Support local business. When you shop at the farmers market, you're keeping money in your own community, which helps create (and preserve) jobs and makes your hometown more economically stable. Your money goes directly to the farmer—not a middleman—so he can earn a better living. When buying at a grocery store, produce comes from commercial growers all over the country (and overseas). These growers earn about 25 cents of each dollar you spend. Put more of your money into your local farmers’ pockets (and in turn, into your local economy) by purchasing fruits and veggies from the market, where farmers keep 95% of what you spend after paying "rent" for their market booth.
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About The Author

Sarah Haan Sarah Haan
Sarah is a registered dietitian with a bachelor's degree in dietetics. She helps individuals adopt healthy lifestyles and manage their weight. An avid exerciser and cook, Sarah likes to run, lift weights and eat good food. See all of Sarah's articles.

Member Comments

  • Often you can ask if the farmer has any deals on imperfect produce also called seconds. They are slightly bruised or strangely shaped fruits and vegetables that ordinarily get passed over. If they have them they will happily give you a good deal on these just as healthy veggies. I don't mind if my tomato started life as a conjoined twin or a squirrel nibbled on my corn. - 3/29/2014 4:51:43 PM
  • Ask questions! I once purchased plums at our local farmer's market and they had a #4040 sticker on them. I later went to the grocery store and found those same plums with the same sticker for half the price! Do not assume the produce is local! The plums weren't. Yes, I felt taken advantage of and I do not think something is worth twice as much because it was purchased at a trendy location. - 2/17/2014 11:12:47 AM
  • BAUMAN147
    Something similar to a Farmer's Market (and available year-round) is Bountiful Baskets Food Co-op. Go to http://www.bounti to see if there is a site near you. They are in about 25 states and counting, available in both rural areas and big cities. You go to the site on Monday or Tuesday and contribute for a basket (regular or organic), plus you can choose from that week's selection of add-ons like cases of fruit and veggies, bread, tortillas, oils (olive and coconut are the most common) and juice packs( fruits and veggies for juicing). Then you just need to make sure you know when and where to pick up your stuff (a specific time and place on Friday or Saturday). It doesn't support the local community like a farmer's market does, but it's a great way to get cheap fresh fruits and vegetables- particularly when you live in a very rural area like I do. - 2/13/2014 12:05:59 PM
    I agree with all the good points in this article but find it difficult to make time for a market visit + trip to the store to round out my order with other things that I need. I found a great compromise with a food coop (grand river organics) that delivers locally grown produce baskets to various pickup points near grocery and health food stores in my area. Some of the above benefits without the inconvenience. Thanks for the article! - 2/6/2014 7:20:47 AM
    My husband and I raise buffalo in NC and have participated in three farmers markets for over six years now. All the markets are year round and yes, it can be very cold at times! Our customers keep coming every Saturday rain or shine. I have enjoyed the bounty of my fellow vendors and learned so much on how to prepare a variety of fresh vegetables! In fact, I never ate fresh beets roasted in my oven until this year and now I'm a convert. No more canned beets for me! Kale is next on my list! I've also tried organically raised turkey, grass fed beef hot dogs and some of the best pork sausage I've ever tasted. And not to brag too much, our bison are raised on grass and hay only, so not only is it very tasty meat, it's also very healthy meat with no antibiotics or growth hormones. You owe it to yourself to go to the ATM and visit a farmers market soon! - 2/5/2014 9:49:56 AM
    I shop at our farmers market in the Comox Valley every Saturday, the freshness of the produce can't be beat, I cut back on meat to buy the good stuff bison , beef ,turkey all with out the hormones and drugs, so I've given up quantity for quality and keep the cost reasonable, talk about freshness, yesterday we waited while more strawberries were being picked to make the demand, they were delicious !!!!! - 6/16/2013 12:45:33 PM
    I agree with the person who posted about the farmers market at Fort Edmonton Park. Before moving to Edmonton, I used to frequent farmers markets regularly. For all the reasons that are listed in this article and because the prices were good. But in Edmonton, the prices are sky high. I have a limited food budget and I cannot afford the extremely high prices at farmers' markets here. Not slightly higher than the supermarket, but easily double or triple on many, many things. I find it odd, especially since fresh produce is actually cheaper in the supermarkets in Edmonton than it is back East. So in summer, i grow what I can, myself and freeze or otherwise preserve it. - 6/13/2012 11:42:28 PM
  • The Farmers Market opens here in about 30 minutes. I am getting my dehydrator ready now! - 6/9/2012 10:40:54 AM
  • Farmers markets are my favorite part of summer! - 6/5/2012 2:48:01 PM
  • We used to go the one that was held at Fort Edmonton Park every fall but then the sellers got greedy and it got more crowded so we stopped. Too bad how "progress" has to ruin things. - 6/1/2012 10:21:04 PM
    We have what is called a Growers market because there is already a business called the Farmers Market so anyway buying fresh is a good idea IF you can eat the fruit and vege's in a timely fashion.I still have broccoli I bought at the Growers Market three weeks ago,didn't freeze any of it cause I thought I would eat it all very soon,wrong!!!Anyw
    ay still shop at the local growers market and love the fresh homegrown things to eat.Can only go aboug once a month because we live so far away but it is worth the trip.WIll freeze what I can after next visit!! - 6/1/2012 11:36:54 AM
  • I always enjoy stopping at a farmer's market...I love the feel of fresh, country and home-made. In the heading for this article, though, it reads..."Visiting a farmers market is a lovely weekend outing, but there are many other reasons to bypass the market for your weekly fresh fruits and vegetables." It kind of confused me at first...did you mean "other reasons to 'not' bypass the market" or maybe "other reasons 'to pass by' the market" (as in stop by)? I almost didn't read the article cause I thought for a second there were reasons why I should not stop at a farmer's market...which I love to do. :)
    As it turned out I also a glance..."1. Enjoy Better Tasting Food" and realized it was just a grammar thing. I'm looking forward to the local farmer's market starting up this coming week...thanks for the heads up....
    Winona - 6/1/2012 11:09:36 AM
  • I've been awaiting the opening of our summer farmers market, which comes with the first Sunday of June... only to check their webpage this morning to find out that they've pushed it back to July this year! It's been a rough growing season here in Rhode Island, but I didn't expect it to affect the market that much!

    Most markets now accept food stamps, and a lot I've come across offer bonuses [here, I get $2 back for every $5 I spend; the Evanston suburb of Chicago gives you fifty cents for every dollar spent]. It's a great way for us to be able to afford the slightly higher prices of the market so we can continue to eat healthily despite other limitations. - 6/1/2012 9:14:22 AM
  • Love getting my fresh fruits and vegetables from the Farmer's Market! - 6/1/2012 8:53:34 AM
  • I regularly shop at my local Farmer's Market. I love the produce, its fresher and better tasting than at the supermarket, and I love the ability to get exactly what I want from the local butchers as well - no watery chicken breasts or huge packs of ground beef when all I want or need is half a pound! The cheesemongers let me taste before I buy, and I can easily get a wide variety. There is a lady who sells amazing canned goods and homemade saurkraut that is out of this world, and there are fresh flowers in abundance too. Plus, local buskers playing music, and the Market itself puts on cooking demonstrations and other events on a regular basis. What could be better?
    I find I only need my local grocery for dried goods, and even that I'm starting to buy more of at the bulk store - they have a much better variety of whole wheat options! - 6/1/2012 8:49:50 AM

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