Farmer's markets offer fabulous opportunities to buy and sell organic fruit and vegetables. Such weekend markets, normally held on a Saturday or Sunday, offer fresh organic produce straight from the fields and orchards at prices significantly lower than you will find in the organic section of a greengrocer or a supermarket.
It is exceptionally rare to find such fresh produce in a supermarket, which will generally tend to store produce for months in cold storage before it hits the shelves. The farmers and food producers benefit because they have more control over their prices, and by attending a number of different markets they can help to maintain the viability of their business.
However, what are the benefits for you, the consumer? Why should you spend part of your valuable weekend browsing round a farmer's market and checking the range of produce available? The initial reaction of many is that the produce must be very expensive, and they would be unlikely to buy anything - but why? And is that in fact the case?
Sure, the prices of many fruits and vegetables will be a bit higher than you are used to paying at a supermarket, but what is more important: price or quality? Not only that, but they are not all that expensive and you get the chance to purchase high quality fresh organic fruits and vegetables at competitive prices - generally lower than the price you would pay for equivalent fresh food anywhere else.
The food comes directly from the farmer to you, and absolutely fresh - not several weeks or even months old. In many ways it is actually more economical for you to buy food this way because:
Without the waste of over-purchasing or of old food deteriorating quickly, fresh organic produce can actually work out cheaper than supermarket fruit and vegetables. Many shop at farmer's markets just because of this very single reason. However, there is more than just that.
Many say they can't tell the difference between organic and chemically grown food, but studies1 have indicated that most can. A 5-year European Commission2 study confirmed a considerable difference between organic and conventionally farmed crops3 and this has been supported by other studies. However, the UK Food Standards Agency disagrees4. Nevertheless, most Australians believe the common-sense attitude that fruit and vegetables left to ripen naturally in the sun, rather than packed in dark boxes, will taste better - and in fact will actually have a taste!
Not only that, but organic food is grown without the poisonous insecticides that generate damaging free radicals in your body, another scientifically accepted fact - without arguments this time! Free radicals age your skin quicker and can cause atherosclerosis, a condition of your arteries that can cause strokes and heart disease. However, as long as the food is washed there should be no problems.
If you are not sure about the taste, many growers will allow you a free sample to taste before you buy. Try getting that in a supermarket!
Among the benefits of farmer's markets are those that are beneficial to the environment:
Hundreds of thousands of tons of fruit and vegetables are wasted every year for a number of reasons. A major reason is the lack of freshness of supermarket produce that has a very limited time on the shelves at room temperature before they have to be removed and binned.
People forced to purchase pre-packed fruit and vegetables cannot use them all before they become inedible for the same reason - lack of freshness. We must all have purchased fruit that we have had to trash because it went rotten before we use it. Farmer's markets enable you to purchase exactly what you want, and if you overbuy it's no big deal. The food is very fresh and will last until you need it.
A visit to a farmer's market is a great day out for all the family. Many have entertainment and funfairs, with burger bars and ice cream vans. Many farmer's markets in Australia are integrated with other weekend markets, so you can have a whole shopping experience, buying not only fresh organic fruit and vegetables but also arts and crafts, hand-made clothing and a whole host of other stuff.
Or just enjoy wandering around, trying the free samples. You are not obliged to buy anything and you might come across something you have never tried before. Maybe some local honey, hand-made soap or beautiful-tasting bright red strawberries or raspberries, hand-picked this morning and grown without any artificial fertilizers or pesticides. And these massive pure white crisp cauliflowers also look very tasty. . .
There are no doubts at all in the minds of those that visit them that of all the benefits of farmer's markets, the freshness and gorgeous taste of organic fruit and vegetables is the one that draws them every single week. However, as explained above, there are more benefits than just one, including your health, the health of the countryside and the health and nourishment of your children.
That is not to say that supermarket produce is unhealthy - far from it - but come on, which would you rather eat? A tasty red crunchy carrot less than a day old, or a limp orange thing going by the name of a carrot that was grown 2,000 miles away and picked by machine a few months ago . . .
Here are some references to show that others can back up what we say: