Consumers Find Garden Fresh Products at Farmers' Markets
Farmers’ markets provide consumers an opportunity to purchase produce that is so fresh that it's almost like growing it themselves. Most produce is grown within 25 miles of the market, and many growers harvest their produce the day before or the morning of the farmers’ market. Produce has spent less time in transportation from the farm to the consumer, so it is much fresher and likely to be richer in vitamin content.
By shopping at a farmers’ market, buyers are able to purchase locally grown fruits, vegetables, herbs, honey, tree nuts, dried fruits, nursery crops, and many other products. This supports your local farmers and has a local economic impact by keeping the dollars circulating within your own community rather than losing them to corporations in other states or countries.
Also, prices are generally lower at farmers’ markets than in grocery stores. And the money spent at a farmers’ market stays in the community, helping both producers and consumers.
Remember, by supporting your local farmers, you are keeping them in business so that in the future you will not be forced to buy fruits and vegetables from farms in distant states and foreign countries in the event that your local farms go out of business.
Farmers’ markets can give producers the option of selling directly to consumers at retail prices rather than wholesale prices if they are properly set up and managed. Though similar to grocery store produce in price, foods bought at farmers’ markets have the advantage of freshness.
Everyone—producers, consumers, and the local economy—benefits where farmers’ markets operate. Producers can make money and have an alternative to row cropping, consumers can get a better product, and farmers’ markets can foster a sense of community. They also are beneficial to the local economy.
What Is Local?
“Locally grown” has been one of those common catch phrases since the early 2000’s. But, what exactly does local mean in this context?
Local is one of those nebulous terms which does not have an exact definition to pin to it. Local produce might be interpreted to be those fruits and vegetables grown within your own town or county.
However, local often means produce from within a specified radius, such as 50 or 100 miles from your point of reference.
Other interpretations are that local refers to anything grown within your state, which may be more than 100 miles away in many cases. On the other hand, the specified distance definition above may include farms that are located in neighboring states, yet still within the mileage being used.
At the far extreme are definitions used by major grocery store chains. Some of them use 500 or even 1,000 miles from the store as local. Some even consider any produce grown in the U.S. as local. This definition may be too broad for most applications.
For a legal definition, Congress passed the bill H.R.2419, which amended the "Consolidated Farm and Rural Development Act" in 2008 with this definition: (I) the locality or region in which the final product is marketed, so that the total distance that the product is transported is less than 400 miles from the origin of the product; or (II) the State in which the product is produced.
For practical purposes, most farmers’ markets require produce to be locally grown, and consider that to be within the same county or neighboring counties. Including surrounding counties is often important since there may not be enough local growers within the county to support a farmer’s market on their own. However, definitions do vary widely.
The Cost of Eating Right
An Economic Research Service (ERS) study in 2004 concluded that a consumer could meet the recommendation of three servings of fruits and four servings of vegetables per day for 64 cents, which is about 12 percent of the average amount spent on food per person.
According to nutrition studies, Americans do not even come close to the recommended amount of fruits and vegetables in their diets. One of the barriers may be the perceived higher cost of fresh produce compared to convenience, packaged foods.
Actually, although fruits and vegetables may be a dollar to several dollars per pound, each pound provides several servings. Therefore, the ERS analysis demonstrated that servings of fruit ranged from 11 cents (watermelons and apples) to 66 cents (blackberries); vegetables cost from 6 cents (Irish potatoes) to 53 cents (asparagus) per serving. For example, although a pound of peaches may cost a dollar, it provides 4ó servings, which comes to 22 cents per serving.
More than half of all fruits and vegetables were estimated to cost less than 25 cents per serving; 86 percent of all vegetables and 78 percent of all fruits cost less than 50 cents per serving.
Farmers’ markets are a great benefit to the consumers, growers, and the community.