Healthy Lifestyle Challenge #29 – Shop Local!

Good Morning, and welcome to our second last Healthy Lifestyle Challenge!

TODAY’S CHALLENGE is to

Hit up your local farmers market for local fresh produce.

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Why?

According to my-market.ca, there are a number of benefits to shopping your local farmers market:

1. Taste Real Flavours: The fruits and vegetables you buy at the farmers’ market are the freshest and tastiest available. Fruits are allowed to ripen in the field and brought directly to you – no long-distance shipping, no gassing to simulate the ripening process, no sitting for weeks in storage. This food is as real as it gets – food fresh from the farm.

2. Enjoy the Season: The food you buy at the farmers’ market is seasonal. It is fresh and delicious and reflects the truest flavours. Shopping and cooking from the farmers market helps you to reconnect with the cycles of nature in your region. As you look forward to asparagus in spring, savour sweet corn in summer, or bake pumpkins in autumn, you reconnect with the earth, the weather, and the turning of the year.

3. Support Family Farmers: Family farmers are becoming increasingly rare as large agribusiness farms steadily take over food production in Canada. Small family farmers have a hard time competing in the food marketplace. Buying directly from farmers gives them a better return for their produce and gives them a fighting chance in today’s globalized economy.

4. Protect the Environment: Food travels an average of 2500 kms to get to your plate. All this shipping uses large amounts of natural resources (especially fossil fuels), contributes greatly to pollution and creates excess trash with extra packaging. Food at the farmers’ market is transported shorter distances and grown using methods that minimize the impact on the earth.

5. Nourish Yourself: Much food found in grocery stores is highly processed. The fresh produce you do find is often grown using pesticides, hormones, antibiotics, and genetic modification. In many cases it has been irradiated, waxed or gassed in transit. All of these practices have potentially damaging effects on the health of those who eat these foods. In contrast, most food found at the farmers’ market is minimally processed, and many of our farmers go to great lengths to grow the most nutritious produce possible by building their soil’s fertility and giving their crops the nutrients they need to flourish in the ground and nourish those who eat them.

6. Discover the Spice of Life – Variety: At the Farmers’ Market you find an amazing array of produce that you don’t see in your supermarket; red carrots, a rainbow of heirloom tomatoes, green garlic, watermelon radishes and much much more. It is a wonderful opportunity to experience first hand the diversity (and biodiversity) of our planet, both cultivated and wild!

7. Know Where Your Food Comes From: A regular trip to a farmers’ market is one of the best ways to reconnect with where your food comes from. Farmers themselves sell their produce at the farm stands. Meeting and talking to farmers is a great opportunity to learn more about how food is grown, where it is grown, when it is grown and why!

8. Learn Cooking Tips, Recipes and Meal Ideas: Few grocery store cashiers or produce stockers will give you tips on how to cook the ingredients you buy, but farmers and vendors at the farmers’ market are often passionate cooks with plenty of free advice about how to cook the foods they are selling. They’ll give you ideas for what to have for supper, hand out recipes, and troubleshoot your culinary conundrums.

9. Connect with your Community: Wouldn’t you rather stroll amidst outdoor stalls of fresh produce on a sunny day than roll your cart around a grocery store with artificial lights and piped in music? Going to the Farmers’ Market makes shopping a pleasure rather than a chore. The Farmers’ Market is a community gathering place – a place to meet up with friends, bring your children or just get a taste of small-town life often in the midst of a City. Go to the farmers’ market and hear the buzz in the air!

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How?

Here are some great farmers market shopping tips from EVERYDAY Good Thinking

1. Know what’s in season

It’s important to know what’s in season where you live so you can have confidence what you are buying is local and fresh. You’ll find local, in-season produce tastes much better than their supermarket counterparts, and during peak season, you will see prices drop at the farmers market as more producers have similar products.

2. Take your time

It’s best not to rush at the farmers market. Think of your trip as an experience, not a chore. You can bring the kids (many markets have activities for children and have food vendors or entertainment, plus they can learn about food), or just grab a coffee and a freshly made donut and wander for a while before you shop. We recommend you do a lap of the market before purchasing. You will see many of the same offerings at different stands, so if you are looking for a good deal, it helps to peruse and comparison shop before you purchase.

3. Go early (and often)

You’ll find the best selection when the market first opens. The produce won’t be picked over yet, your favorite farm-fresh eggs will still be in stock. You’ll be better able to converse with the farmers without feeling rushed. If you go to the market regularly, you will learn what’s in season and get excited when you see the first local tomatoes hitting the stands. You’ll develop relationships with your food producers and feel even more comfortable asking questions.

4. Bring your own bags

One of the great advantages to shopping at the farmers market is you are supporting the environment through reduced emissions used to transport food. By meeting your farmer at the market directly, you greatly reduce waste. This is especially true if you bring your own reusable shopping bags, a large canvas tote, or a market basket. Many vendors don’t offer plastic bags and the ones that do are usually not very sturdy. You can also recycle your egg cartons or berry crates; just bring them back to the market the next week. Your farmers will be happy to reuse these supplies and grateful for your help.

5. Bring cash

Most farmers market vendors don’t accept credit cards, so bring cash and bring it in small bills if possible. Occasionally, food vendors or suppliers of more expensive products like housewares, wines, meats, or seafood will take cards, but you can play it safe by bringing cash.

6. Know your needs

Sometimes going to the farmers market is almost too much fun! It’s very easy to get caught up in all the beautiful colors and varieties of fruits and vegetables. To reduce the risk of extra food going bad and needing to be thrown out, think ahead about how many nights you plan to cook that week or how many meals you need to prepare. By thinking this through, you’ll have a better idea of how much you should take away from the market. Remember, if there is something you love, you can always buy in bulk (savings!) and preserve the food through one of the many preservation methods, such as canning, pickling or dehydrating.

7. Ask a lot of questions

The farmers at the markets are an underutilized resource for information. Ask as many questions as you can. Ask about how things are grown, ask if they are certified organic, and if they aren’t, ask why not. A lot of certifications are expensive, so farmers don’t get certified even though they may follow organic or natural processes. Feel comfortable asking about how weeds and insects are controlled or where the food is grown. If purchasing meat, you can ask about what the animals are fed and how they are kept. Farmers are often very proud of their work and are happy to answer your questions. Additionally, ask how they like to prepare the foods they sell. Who better to ask for advice than the person who eats, sleeps, and breathes their product!

8. Store foods properly

If you plan on running some other errands after the market or you want to drop off your food and go back to enjoy the festivities, consider bringing a cooler and ice packs along. This will ensure your frozen meats don’t thaw and your herbs don’t wilt. If you aren’t sure how to store your goods, ask the farmers when you buy them. They will be able to give you some tips.

9. Buy ugly stuff

These days, we are so used to how fruits and vegetables look under the bright lights of the grocery store. They are often shiny, plastic-wrapped, or pre-chopped, and there is not a speck of dirt to be found. It is different at the farmers market since many of these foods were picked, pulled, or cut that same morning. Some foods may have had a rudimentary washing, but many will still have some natural leftover dirt from Mother Nature. Weird looking carrots or apples will often taste the best, so don’t pass over an item for minor visual imperfections. The more you shop, the more comfortable you will become with what food looks like directly from the source.

10. Have fun and be flexible

This is the most important tip of all. Farmers markets are all about finding what’s in season, so if you were planning on buying squash and the crop just isn’t in yet, you’ll be out of luck. Keep your shopping plan flexible and make substitutions as necessary. Also, have fun with your purchases. Try new things you’ve never had before and you may just end up with a new favorite food!

Head out to your local farmers market and taste the difference freshness makes!

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One response to “Healthy Lifestyle Challenge #29 – Shop Local!

  1. I still haven’t been to the farmers market in all the years we’ve lived in town. One day I will get there! At least now I have my harvest share veggie box each week to get some nice fresh local fruit and produce.

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