Today is beautiful. The sun is shining brightly without being overbearing and earlier when we took a walk, a light breeze ruffled our clothes. Sleepy time reigns in this household now, but later this afternoon we will be enjoying the weather again when we go to the local farmers market.

In celebration of spring and glorious produce, I thought I would share a couple of reasons why I go to farmers markets. If you don’t already visit these local markets, perhaps you will be inspired to join me.

Nutritious fare

Many vegetables start to lose their vibrancy and some of their nutrients during storage and transfer. One example is spinach. It loses half of its folic acid content after eight days when stored at 39 degrees Fahrenheit. Fresh produce, in other words, could give you double the nutrients.

While I wouldn’t trust just anyone with a stand in a farmers market, the vast majority of produce sold at farmers markets was picked shortly before the market. Crisp, darkest-of-dark greens, bright radishes, sweet strawberries and more are what greet us today. This lovely offering is sure to contain many nutrients for my growing family.

Farmers markets can also be a great place to find pastured chicken eggs, 10 percent grass-fed beef, artisan cheese, and heritage pork. These high-quality products have a higher nutrient content in general (One example: Grass-fed beef contains up to four times the amount of vitamin E when compared to grain-fed cows) and are also better treated.

While not all farmers use sustainable practices, the majority of small farmers use organic methods, though maybe not certified organic. That means my produce has less toxic pesticides — and this momma is all for that.

Glorious food

But even if you don’t care about nutrient quality, there is no beating fresh produce and food for flavor. If you just like to eat good food, the farmers market is the place for you. Nothing beats the flavor of fruits picked when ripe from the trees (and yes, tree-ripened fruit is also higher in nutrients), fresh greens, the superior flavor of pastured chicken, and the dark yolks from happy chickens.

If you simply want to eat good eats, buy as much as you can fresh, directly from local farmers. Your taste buds will thank you with each bite. Plus, when you start with such good ingredients, they are easy to cook because they need very little tweaking. A quick steam, a little roasting, or a few minutes on the grill is often sufficient for a beautiful feast.

Not only is the typical vegetable so very delicious from the farmers market, but you also can find a lot of other vegetables, cheeses and other food items that can be quite hard to find in stores. This makes it fun and delicious! Last week I came home with white Japanese turnips, a sweet root vegetable eaten raw. I also came home with green garlic, which made a delicious soup. 

Local food economy

But more then that, supporting local, small farmers supports your local economy and decentralizes the food industry. As much as I appreciate the big brands that are organic, it makes me a little weary to see the same organic brand across the country when there are so many small farmers in each state. I personally think it is wise to have a localized food supply. It also puts less of a burden on the environment because your food didn’t have to take a long trip to reach you.

Sometimes frugal

While our local farmers markets are not cheap (unfortunately for this family on a budget), during the height of the growing season, I am able to get steals on many vegetables. I always appreciate seeing a table loaded with zucchini or cucumbers because I know they will be on sale that week and I can go crazy with them! However, how “cheap” produce and other items sell for really depends on the market you visit. You may find really good deals at yours. Also, some farmers are willing to give discounts when you buy large quantities. It never hurts to ask! I’d personally like to see some of our local farmers giving a bit more grace to the average buyer’s budget with their prices. But then again, why would they? They are selling out often because their food is just that good.

If you’d like to find a local farmers market near you, this farmers market site can help you.

Here is to a bright growing season ahead of us!

Also on MNN: Preventative medicine 101: Hospitals incorporate farmers markets into facilities

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