Though my CSA keeps me knee-deep in zucchini, eggplant, cucumbers, and peppers, a lot of my kitchen basics don’t get delivered weekly. I subsidize my CSA by going to Farmers Markets and picking up onions, garlic, fruit, and the fresh herbs I’ll use for the week. Because I consider Farmers Market to be my version of retail therapy, I normally head to a Saturday or Sunday Market relatively close to home so I can take the time to explore the weekly offerings and figure out our dinner menu for the week according to what looks best under the tents. Though I am the first to admit that Union Square Farmers Market offers an amazing variety, I choose to support markets that are as close to my home because newer markets have an alarmingly high mortality rate (see this NPR article regarding a Greenmarket in Crown Heights) and Farmers need to see their return on investment in order to keep bringing us convenient and tasty produce year after year. The Saturday Market I frequent most often is at the Southeast Corner of Morningside Park (my CSA Farmer/Hero, Claudio’s family has a stand there), and the (tiny) Sunday Market on 1st Ave and 92nd St.
The Importance of Farmers Markets in Our Communities:
Health Benefits: When you live in a neighborhood saturated with fast food restaurants and bodegas full of packaged, processed, high calorie/low nutrition foods, it’s no wonder that six in every ten adults in East and Central Harlem is overweight or obese. I see obesity as the single biggest health crisis of our generation because it causes so many other health issues, and it stems from not having access to fresh, raw, nutritious foods, or education surrounding the building blocks of nutrition and a healthy diet. Shopping at a Farmers Market and introducing more vegetables to your dinner table is a small change that will have a huge impact on your family’s health and your future medical bills.
Environmental Benefits: Most of the produce that you find in a grocery store (unless specifically marked otherwise) was probably grown thousands of miles away. Organic or conventional, if the tomatoes you are buying were grown somewhere in South America, the journey to get to your grocery store shelf was a long one, spent partially on a diesel truck. Not only does the flavor and nutritional value of produce diminish with every day that passes from it’s picking, shipping that produce to New York creates tons of air pollution which adds to our personal carbon footprints and has a significant impact on our environment. If you support your local Farmers Market, your produce isn’t traveling very far, so it is fresher, tastier, more nutritious, and shrinks your carbon footprint a least a few sizes.
Local Economy Benefits: Everyone knows that Money Talks—where and how consumers spend their paychecks is becoming of major import to every consumer goods and services company out there. Knowing that where I spend my money counts as a Voice and Vote about what is important to me, I choose to spend my food budget on food that is grown close to home because it speaks volumes about my values and my perspective regarding the corrupted state of food production and nutrition education in this country. Especially today, when almost everyone is still feeling the impact of the recession, how and where you choose to buy your food is often as much a political act as it is one of survival. Buying locally grown produce at your Farmers Market is one of the best ways to support the small businesses in your local economy while decreasing your carbon footprint and providing your family with outstanding nutrition. It’s a win-win-win for everyone involved (me-farmer-environment), and more importantly, it lets conniving agribusiness giants and huge food conglomerates know that I’m not supporting their business models, practices, or lobbyists.
Community Benefits: Farmers Markets provide a forum to gather, exchange ideas, and socialize with like-minded individuals in your community. Warm, generous, and unpretentious, they are also a great place to provide high-rise dwelling backyard-deprived children with up-close exposure to life cycle of our food, and allows them to explore food on a very personal and interactive level.
My Dinner Table Benefits: Time and Taste! The thing about produce from Farmers Market is that it tastes good, really good—Because these fruits and vegetables are so good independent of any cooking process they save me a ton of time and energy when trying to get dinner on the table during a busy week night.
Online Resources to Find a Farmers Market close to you:
Farmers Markets throughout New York are run by a variety of different non-profits and community/farmer organizations. The below links should help you find a market so convenient to your home or your work that you won’t even miss going to the grocery store.