10 Reasons to Eat Locally Grown and Stay Healthy

By Dawnie May 15, 2012

Follow the chef farmers market toursFarmers Markets are popping all over the country this time of year.  Keeping it local and exploring your palate each and every week has its perks.  Here are 10 reasons why its a positive experience by shopping at your local farmer’s markets:

1.  You can Taste The Difference!   Most of the produce has been picked within 24 hours (supermarkets could be as long as a couple of months!).  It comes to your table ripe, fresh and full of flavor.  The produce is at its “prime”!

2.  You are giving back to your local community.  “Keeping it local” is a common trend in urban and rural areas today.  In areas with strong local markets, the family farm has been given new life.

3.  Discover New Flavors!  Ever wonder what the long white root vegetable is and what it is used for?  Flabbergasted by how many varieties of pears you can find at the market?  Shopping at local markets helps you think outside of the supermarket bins and explore your palate with so many varieties of flavors.  Small farms are keeping alive nearly 300 other varieties of particular produce; offering heirloom varietals and the good old fashion beef steak tomatoes!

4.  Helps to Boost Local Economy!  A US study showed that almost twice the contribution of a dollar stayed in the local economy when spent at a local food business compared to a supermarket.

5.  Save the World!  A study in Iowa found that a regional diet consumed 17 times less oil and gas than a diet based on food shipped across the country!  With gas prices on the rise, who wants to pay for transportation fees to a supermarket bringing in un-ripened fruit and vegetables when one could drive down the road and buy from Farmer Brown?

6.  Meet Your Neighbors and Farmers!  Local eating is social.  Studies show that people shopping at farmer’s markets have 12 times more conversations than their counterparts at the supermarket.  Sometimes shopping at your local farmers markets turns into a half day affair with all the friends and locals you run into.  Bring your chairs and make a day of good old fashion community fun!

7.  Be Healthy!  Eating fresh local ingredients with no processing, no additives, no pesticides…..the only end result is healthy eating!  Cooking from scratch makes you feel better; you are eating more fresh fruit and vegetables and fewer of the bad products that have turned our country into an obese problem.  Once you go fresh and local, you won’t want to go back!

8.  Get in Touch with the Seasons!  Many farming communities are lucky enough to have year round supply of fresh, local ingredients at their markets.  When you eat locally, you eat what’s in season.  You’ll remember the cherries are the taste of summer.  Even in winter, comfort foods like squash soup and sweet potato bisque just make sense.

9.  Create Memories!  Bringing back those fresh local ingredients each week, breaking out the cookbook and exploring your passion while creating some excellent dishes is all about eating locally grown.  Making jam, eating fresh local food and pairing it with a local wine with family and friends makes memories of a lifetime!

10.  Explore your local community!  Get out and about and visit local farmers markets.  Become a tourist in your own back yard!  One way of exploring markets is by participating in a organized tour.  Follow a chef thru a market and learn about unique vegetables and fruits you normally wouldn’t even think of buying.  Visit your local event calendar and find a farmers market tour and join in on the fun and education.  You will be surprised how much little you knew about your local farmers and artisans until you get one on one time with them on a tour!

Keep Your Family Safe –  Food Safety at Farmers Markets:

Farmers’ markets are the prime destination for fresh and local food, but they’re not immune to germs and bacteria. Farmers work hard to comply with state and federal food safety standards but patrons also have to keep their eyes peeled (and their produce washed). Use our tips to help avoid food safety pitfalls.

Whether it’s organically grown or not, produce needs to washed well. It’s a good thing that farmers’ market produce isn’t waxed like much of what you’ll find in the grocery store, but these local goodies are often covered with dirt. Rinse delicate items like berries, herbs and lettuces well just before use; rinsing them before storing them can cause them to get moldy or mushy. Sturdy produce like carrots, apples and potatoes can handle a good scrub. Thick-skinned foods like melons should be washed before you slice into them.

Some vendors turn their produce into drinks like apple cider. Look for pasteurized beverages, especially if you’re pregnant, elderly or serving them to young children.

Eggs and Dairy Products
Eggs and dairy (yogurt, cheese and milk) at the grocery store is almost always pasteurized, this isn’t always the case at the farmers’ market. Read labels carefully and if in doubt, ASK! Raw milk products and unpasteurized eggs are appealing to some folks but also carry a higher risk of food-borne illness from salmonella and listeria. Also, be sure that all dairy products are stored at the proper temperature – in refrigeration or on ice, especially on hot days.

Meats & Seafood
Fresh and frozen meats, meat products (such as bacon and sausage) and even seafood are popular farmers’ market finds. Use a specially designated shopping bag to avoid cross contamination and bring along an ice pack to keep everything cold on the ride home.

Free Samples
It’s become very popular for venders to give away tastes of their goods, especially prepared foods and specialty items. Baked goods, pesto and tomato sauce, jams and jellies, cheese, granola, yogurt, pickles, hummus, soups and grain salads are just a few of things you might come across. Bring along your own napkins (vendors never seem to have enough). Make sure perishable foods are kept on ice and have proper serving utensils before you sample them. Most importantly, beware of double dippers!