One of my favorite things to do once it’s summer in Indiana is visit the various farmers’ markets around town. As a dietitian, I’m a sucker for the fresh fruits and veggies, but I also love the homemade desserts, candles, pasta, kettle corn, fresh flowers, and other wonderful items you can find. Here are my top five reasons why visiting your local farmer’s market is a must.
- Support for the local community. Because the produce is grown and purchased locally, the money remains in the community and stimulates the local economy. Also, when you shop at the farmers’ market, you are cutting out the middle man and the product is generally less expensive than if you purchased it in the grocery store.
- Eating foods that are in season. Farmers’ market produce is picked ripe and sold soon after picking. Supermarket produce, on the other hand, can take up to two weeks to travel from the farm to the store, even when it is in season. The produce tastes richer and more flavorful and the nutrients are better retained. This Indiana Fruits and Vegetable Harvest Calendar handout shows which produce is in season so that you can plan ahead for meals and shopping on your next outing. If you don’t live in Indiana, check with your local government sites to see whether they have a similar calendar.
- It’s good for you. The average American eats 4.4 servings of fruits and vegetables per day. The current recommendation is 9 servings per day. Picking up multiple servings of fruits and veggies and incorporating them into recipes, meals, and snacks is a great way to get closer to the 9-serving-per-day goal. This will guarantee you are getting good nutrition and meeting your recommended vitamin and mineral requirements, increasing your daily fiber intake, and acquiring cancer-fighting antioxidants, too. Locally grown produce is also lower in pesticides and chemicals.
- You can talk to the farmers who grew the food you are about to eat. You can meet the farmers who grew your food, and ask when it was picked, how it was grown, and ways to prepare it. When else do you get the opportunity to learn so much about what you are putting in your mouth?
- There is certain to be one that fits your location and schedule. I love being able to go to the local farmers’ market close to work on my lunch break on Wednesday afternoons to grab items to get me through the rest of the week. Saturday mornings, it’s off to the farmers’ market closer to my house to purchase goodies for the weekend and first part of the week. To find a farmers’ market close to you check out the FDA’s National Farmers Market Directory.
Whether you are picking up items for dinner or for the whole week, the local farmers’ market is an inexpensive, healthy-eating alternative to the grocery store. Try to get there early to get the best variety and options. Not all vendors accept credit cards, so be sure to have cash on hand. Finally, bring along your own reusable grocery bag to put all of your goodies in so it is easier to carry home your fresh, delicious finds.
This blog was written by Angie Mitchell, RD, Wellness Coordinator. To find out more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.