Why Shop at a Farmers Market?

The 2014 Farmers Market season is just getting started, and we’re all waiting with anticipation for the fresh, local foods they’ll bring! But access to amazing local produce isn’t the only reason to shop at a farmers’ market. Farmers markets provide additional benefits that you may not know about, for your body, community, and wallet. Read on for more reasons why you should check out your local farmers market this season!

Photo by cedwardbrice, Flickr/Creative Commons license

Photo by cedwardbrice, Flickr/Creative Commons license

1. Farmers markets encourage healthy diets.
With an abundance of brightly colored fruits and vegetables, Farmers Markets are packed with foods that are good for you. These healthy foods are not only readily available, but they are also the stars of the show. At grocery stores, the majority of aisles are full of highly-processed foods that can distract you from the fruits and vegetables your body appreciates. While shopping at a farmers’ market, you’re much more likely to take home a bag of kale than a bag of Cheetos.

2. Farmers markets improves physical and emotional well-being.
Research suggests that there is a strong correlation between social interaction and health/well-being. Feelings of loneliness can affect diet choices, disrupt sleep patterns, and negatively impact overall health, with similar effects as high blood pressure, obesity, lack of exercise, or smoking. A study by the Project for Public Spaces revealed that people who shop at farmers’ markets have 15-20 social interactions per visit while they would only have one or two per visit to the grocery store. These smiles and small chats can literally make you healthier!

Photo by Corey Templeton, Creative Commons license

Photo by Corey Templeton, Creative Commons license

3. Farmers markets support a healthy economy.
Farmers markets stimulate the local economy by supporting a variety of local vendors, from farmers to craftsmen. By providing these vendors a place to showcase themselves and their products, these markets serve as small business incubators, helping to support their growth when they’re just getting their start.

4. Local foods at farmers markets preserve genetic diversity.
Buying from local farmers helps protect genetic diversity. Only a few varieties of fruits and vegetables are found in grocery stores – the varieties that can survive shipping, transportation, and have long shelf lives. While these fruits and vegetables are great travelers, they’re usually not the tastiest. Local farmers love farmers markets because they can offer the community a wider array of delicious choices. A great example of hard-to-find produce at a farmers market are heirloom varieties, which have been passed from generation to generation because they taste so good.

jackson_miss_market_creative_commons_natalie_maynor

Photo by Natalie Meyer, Creative Commons license

5. Farmers markets are affordable.
Government nutrition assistance programs provide incentives to help low income individuals and families to purchase more local fresh fruit and vegetables. Customers who qualify for the WIC and Senior Farmers Market Nutrition Programs can receive $25 worth of checks to use at participating farmer’s markets.

You can also find markets that have an incentive programs for using any federal nutrition benefits (including food stamps or SNAP benefits) to purchase fruits and vegetables. Some programs match the amount you spend up to $10, $15, or $25 per visit!

Here’s a list of farmers markets offering these incentives in the Chicagoland area:
• The 61st Street Farmers Market
• Oak Park Farmers Market
• Andersonville Farmers Market
• Wood Street Farm Stand
• Healthy Food Hub
• Glenwood Sunday Market
• Green Youth Farm

Photo, Creative Commons license

Photo, Creative Commons license

6. Farmers markets are fun!
Farmers markets provide a fun and relaxing atmosphere to pick up some food, listen to live music or just enjoy being outside in the beautiful weather. Meeting up with family and friends at the market is an excellent way to feel connected to the community and increase your health of body, mind and spirit.
Not sure where to find them? Use the links below to find a farmers market in your area and their hours of operation.

Illinois Department of Agriculture Farmers’ Market Search by city  
USDA Farmers’ Market Search by zipcode

Happy Shopping!
-Jiyoung

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