Buy fresh produce from farmers’ marketsBy Kathryn Friday Published 7:47pm Monday, September 20, 2010
Technically speaking, farmers’ markets are markets, usually held out–of-doors, in public spaces, where farmers can sell produce to the public.
Historically, farmers’ markets produce is known for being locally grown and very fresh. By supporting the markets, farmers can pick produce at the peak of flavor, preserve the nutritional aspect of fresh produce, and help reduce consumption of fossil fuels since local produce doesn’t travel as far before it is eaten or stored. Today’s farmers markets, much like those of yesteryear, help connect rural and urban populations via mutually rewarding social ties.
In Alabama, the Farmers Market Authority (FMA) is a state agency that has witnessed a 635-percent growth, from farmers markets in 1999 to 125 markets scheduled to open in 2010.
The Farmers Market Authority (FMA) was established to assist in marketing agricultural products by offering information to growers (farmers) and consumers (you and I) alike. Many of us have seen ads encouraging residents to “Buy Fresh, Buy Local”; in support of this theme, a listing of farmers markets in Alabama is available at www.BuyLocalAlabama.com. Details include name of the market, address, time and dates of operation, and when applicable, a map to the site. Other areas covered by the directory are U-pick operations, popular with many families, and roadside stands, some of which have been around for several years.
In Marengo County, two Farmers Markets are or have been open this summer- one in Thomaston on Tuesday and Saturday and one in Demopolis on Saturday. Farmers’ markets or fresh markets provide produce that is as ‘home grown’ as that from our back yards and gardens. In fact, according to the AL Farmers Market Authority, improved taste and a boost to our local economy are among the top reasons to “Buy Fresh, Buy Local.” Most of us have experienced the difference in taste between produce that is local versus food shipped from other states or countries. The result – local farmers can offer varieties grown for taste and freshness, instead of produce grown for shipping and long shelf life.
In addition, buying local supports our local economy, ultimately improving our communities. And buying from farmers’ markets allows us to put a “face” to the food we’re consuming. Knowing where food comes from and how it is grown or raised enables us to purchase from farmers or growers who also care about food safety and environmental responsibility. That makes sense since these farmers grow and eat their own food, and therefore have a vested interest in growing or raising quality produce.
The FMA wants consumers to know the vendors by shopping and interacting with them. Don Wambles, FMA director, offers these comments: “You can learn so much from vendors who grow their own produce, from how it is planted to the variety of their produce and possibly even a new recipe using fresh ingredients. We want people to get to know who grows their food. Chances are they will learn something new and make a new friend in the process”.
And that’s another aspect of farmers’ markets: they are social occasions for families, neighbors, in fact the entire community!
Ultimately, as consumers we can help ensure that there will be community farms in the future and for generations to come, that there will be abundant and nourishing food, and that is as basic as ‘Buying fresh’ and ‘Buying local.’