5 Reasons Why Shopping at a Farmers Market Helps Save the World

August 11, 2016
by Steve Holt for Thrive Market
5 Reasons Why Shopping at a Farmers Market Helps Save the World

Your weekly trip to the farmers market might feel like another mundane errand, but it's really much more important than that.

Since the dawn of humanity, the marketplace has been a centerpiece of society—a place not just to buy and sell goods, but to meet and socialize with your neighbors. This summer, more than 8,500 farmers markets—50 percent more than there were five years ago—dot the American landscape. Whether they're in a large city, small town, or suburb, local farmers markets connect us more closely to the source of our food.

This week is National Farmers Market Week, and to celebrate, we're rounding up five reasons why your trip to the farmers market is so important.

1. Supports farms, farmers, and rural livelihoods

Between 2007 and 2012, America lost more than 95,000 farms—mostly small- and mid-sized ones. Many of these farms are being replaced by enormous factory farms run by corporations. For many small farms, markets provide a vital, direct link with a customer base that appreciates the quality and value of fresh, local, family-grown food. In fact, 25 percent of vendors get their sole source of income from farmers market sales. The dollars you spend at the market matter!

2. Boosts the local economy

Ever heard of the "economic multiplier effect"? The terms sounds a little esoteric, but the meaning is simple: spending your money at a retailer that is locally owned circulates money through the community rather than sending it elsewhere. Local farms employ local residents and farmers spend and donate their money in their local community. Of every $100 spent at a farmers market, $62 stays within the local economy and $99 within the state. In other words, you’re actually helping yourself when you shop at your farmers market.

3. Expands access to healthy food

We’ve got a national eating disorder: in too many households, cheap, unhealthy convenience products have replaced real food. This can be especially true for lower-income families struggling to make ends meet. The good news is, thousands of farmers markets across the country are making good food accessible to everyone by accepting nutrition benefits like Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and WIC. But aren’t supermarkets more affordable? Not necessarily. Several localized studies have found that produce is cheaper at farmers markets than at regular stores.

4. Makes communities healthier

“Let food be thy medicine,” Hippocrates famously stated. He was right: nutritious, real foods are the building blocks of a long, healthy life. But again, many Americans have lost sight of this. Farmers markets flood our communities with the kinds of locally grown, nutrient-dense fruits and vegetables that lengthen lives, make us happier, and prevent disease.

But they do more than that: they build communities, too. By connecting neighbor to neighbor, and farmer to neighbor, social bonds are formed and strengthened, and communities grow in solidarity and unity.

5. Saves the environment

Farmers markets promote sustainability and curb greenhouse gas emissions, thus combating climate change. How do they do this? Most farmers markets only allow vendors to sell food produced within a certain distance—often 200 miles. Compare that to the average distance traveled by food sold in the U.S.—a little over 1,000 miles. That hugely reduces the amount of fuel needed to truck or ship produce from farm to store. Plus, nearly half of all farmers markets sell at least some organic foods. As we know, growing organic helps maintain soil quality and eliminates the need for potentially harmful pesticides. We can rest assured that our food dollar is greenest when it goes toward local food from local farms at our local market.

So what are you waiting for? Find your local farmers market in the USDA’s directory, grab a few reusable bags, and get to saving the world!

Photo credit: Alicia Cho

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This article is related to: Food, Living, News

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  • Cynthia Robinson

    Buying from my local farmers has been the best decision I have ever made for so many reasons.
    I grew up in a rural setting but we were fortunate to live on SIX acres of land, 2 of which were forest right down to the local rivers edge. We were even fortunate enough to have wild edible mushrooms to harvest.
    We had chickens, sheep - for wool, and occasional food, but Dad HATED lamb, and rabbits - yes for food.
    We had a very LARGE garden and harvest time was crazy. We harvested, canned, pickled, & froze. Dad, he always went overboard. Just when we thought we coming to the end... in drove a truck with several burlap sacks of corn... and once again we were off and running. He would pick strawberries it seemed by the bushel, and we would all take a day and pick blueberries. There was never a shortage of fresh food, straight from the garden.
    When I became a single mother after 7 years of marriage... I created a small vegetable patch out of necessity. Fortunately for me, I lived next door to my grandmother. I made my own salsa, she & I made picallily - and if you have never had it... green tomatoes, onions, red peppers cooked in a sweet briney juice. Totally the best thing with burgers and Gram's homemade Boston Baked Beans...& yes, we live about an hour outside of Boston, MA.
    Back on topic... I LOVE my Farmers Market and I found a farm 2 miles from where I work that is organic and I have a CSA with them, only a 1/2 CSA. The best thing during the winter, I have three local organic farms that do winter farming...that excites me to no end, knowing I can get FRESH JUST PICKED GREENS all winter long.

    By the way... I also hold a membership in Thrive Market... love, love, LOVE Thrive Market.


    That's my story... would live to read yours, Hope you share!

  • SC Dave

    A significant percentage of the vendors at so-called "farmer's markets" are people that set up tables and selling the same produce from the same sources as your grocery store. Ask about where the stuff *really* comes from, and be sure to buy form people that are actually farmers rather than middlemen.

    Discard automatic belief in the notion that somehow because something is driven less than "often 200 miles" rather than "a little over 1000 miles" fuel is magically saved. Some guy driving 10 units of apples 50 miles to farmers market likely burns considerably more fuel per apple than the semi with 500 units driving 1000 miles.

    I'm not *against* anything here (especially community building) - I'm just saying don't just accept statements without thinking about them.

    I was a member of a CSA once, but too high a percentage of the "vegetables" turned out to be corn and potatoes. So I dropped out, although I do miss the squash and particularly those wonderful beets I used to get.