In truth, $711 million is a small number in comparison to the large value of the food industry. However, what is to be noted is that the dollar amount still seems to prove that farmers' markets have an important place within this country, and they should have an important place in your kitchen as well.
Where It Began and How It Changed
According to Smithsonian, farmers’ markets have been around since at least the 1800s. In 1806, they have record of Thomas Jefferson buying vegetables, beef, and eggs at a local market in Georgetown.
Within the 1800s there were several markets in towns that had a population of 30,000 people or more. As time grew and technologies expanded, refrigeration and bulk product became a reality.
Soon America was on the road to high functioning supermarkets and nation wide chains.
Now, a $5.7 trillion industry, grocery stores are the primary source of food for the average American, but people seem to be appreciating local food more and more as time goes on.
Food trends like farm to table, organic eating, veganism, sustainability, and food transparency have taken the forefront of the industry.
Chefs and local customers will scour these markets for social interaction and, of course, local and seasonal food that fit towards these new trends.
Why You Should Go
Huffington Post released an article in 2011 detailing the many benefits of farmers’ markets. According to their data, locally sourced food had been on the rise. Because of that, people were much more inclined to go to local vendors for their produce and food products.
Here is what their list consisted of:
1. Farm fresh: There is no denying that grocery store produce will sit in boxes, trucks, and shelves for days before you find them. Shopping locally can get you the absolute freshest produce possible.
2. Organic and non-GMO: While this is not for everything you see locally, many farmers do participate in organic methods when growing their product. The chances of buying pure and environmentally friendly food are leaps higher than at the grocery store.
3. Seasonal: Of course, farmers grow what they can when they can. Because the food is local, you will only be eating foods that can be grown at the time you go out and buy them.
4. Ripe: Sometimes at the grocery store the produce is not as ripe as it could be. Farmers’ markets typically have fresh picked, properly ripened produce.
5. More nutritious: The coloring of the fruit can make a huge statement. Fresh local produce tends to be brighter and more saturated than what is in grocery stores, speaking to the nutrients within the fruit or vegetable.
6. Tastes better: It’s freshness and ripeness makes a huge difference in flavor, blowing away the taste of commercially grown product.
7. Non-industrial: Because these products are not being grown at large volumes, efficiency is not the primary goal. Local farmers most likely do not use one field for just one type of product. This is beneficial because it does not strip nutrients in the soil making their food more beneficial.
8. Affordable: Local produce is a steal when considering the nutrients and quality you are acquiring. It is much more expensive to buy organic, local produce at the grocery store than at the market.
9. Variety: There are much more bountiful selections of local produce, whereas in grocery stores you will typically see only one or two types of a particular vegetable or fruit.
10. Supports local economies: Money goes into your local environment. Farmers have a job, customers pay for a product, and the farmers spend their earned money throughout the community.
11. Supports local family farms: These purchases support families so they can also be active in the community.
12. Conserves fuel: There are little to no shipments necessary to get the product where it needs to be sold.
13. Better for the environment: Less fossil fuels and mass production waste.
14. Provenance: You are more inclined to know everything about the food you are purchasing.
15. Social: It is a fun environment where you get get together with friends, family, and your local community.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture further expands on some reasons that are not highlighted by Huffington Post as well.
Here is what their list consisted of:
1. Try something new: These markets contain seasonal foods within your area. These foods may include ingredients you are comfortable with or they may be different to what you usually eat. It is a great place to expand your comfort zone.
2. Learn a farmer’s secret: Many farmers are more than happy to tell you everything about what they grow, from how to prepare to what to serve it with.
3. Follow the rainbow: Eating a colorful diet has been widely known to provide maximum levels of antioxidants and nutrients. Going to a farmers’ market may just help you achieve that diet.
4. Bring the kids: These markets are great for children, and may encourage them to eat new foods or snacks.
In addition to that, you are not only supporting farmers, but also local and artisan producers. You can find companies like us, Naturalvert, at your local markets. The markets are a time to enjoy each season, enjoy the outdoors, and taste delicious food.
Where to Go
For a complete list of where to go in New Jersey counties, head to Edible Jersey, where they have compiled a list of local markets.