If you’re a foodie living in the Northern Hemisphere early summer marks the start of local food season.  I envision farmers coming out of hibernation much like bears. Only instead of rustling around in trashcans, farmers nestle under tents and set up shop with some of the most colorful and delicious produce available.

Visiting our local farmer’s market is a small obsession of mine. Chris and I were first in line for Spring’s arrival of asparagus and are counting down the hours until the first cherry is picked.  Oh and don’t get me started on radishes.  Did you know they come in different shapes and colors?!?!

My reasons for shopping at the farmer’s market started as purely selfish– the food simply tastes better.  And not just kind of better, but enough that I now only eat asparagus during when it’s in season for us: Spring.  I suppose you can get some flown in from Peru during the winter, but your taste buds will know better.

Over the years, I’ve learned that there are many reasons to shop at your communities farmer’s market other than to appease your taste buds and they all stem from one word: LOCAL.

Economic Benefits:  Locally grown food does more than benefit your taste buds; it benefits your community.  First off, it provides people with jobs.  It connects communities through CSA’s and volunteer work.  But most importantly, it pumps money into your town’s economy.  When buying a tomato from a big chain grocery store only a fraction of your dollar stays in your community.  The rest goes to the growers (usually in Florida or Mexico) and the big chain grocery store.   Buying a locally grown tomato means that almost all of your money goes to a local producer.

I’m reading a book right now called Fair Food by Oran Hesterman that best sums up the economic impact.  In 2006, the Fair Found Foundation commissioned a study to look at what would happen in Detroit, MI if people started spending just 20% of their current food spending on local food.  The impact on the city of Detroit was amazing:

  • 4,700 jobs would be created
  • Nearly $20 million additional business taxes would be generated

Now, I’m not an economist, but last I checked we need local job creation and money to help out our financially strapped communities.

Environmental Benefits: Not only are you boosting your local community, but you are also helping the environment.  The fruits and veggies you buy locally don’t need a plane ticket to your dinner table.   Local food’s carbon footprint is substantially smaller than that of its well-traveled counter part.

In addition, most farmer’s market vendors use organic and traditional farming methods.  These methods promote not only the use of fewer chemicals, which frequently end up in our streams and lakes, but also require crop rotation, which naturally nourishes the soil.  Nourished soil requires less fertilizer (specifically nitrates and phosphates), a direct environmental benefit.

Nutritional Benefits:  Last but not least, the produce from a local farmer’s market actually is better for you.  Rather than picking a plum early so it can arrive ripe in Minnesota from Mexico, local farmers pick their produce when it’s at its prime.   Produced picked at its prime has more nutrients from the get-go, and by shortening the time between picking and eating less nutrients are lost between time of picking and your plate.

Whether your primary reason be like mine (taste) or you’re seeking to give back to the community, create a smaller carbon footprint, or enjoy better health, shopping at your farmer’s market is a great choice.  Who knows, you might even learn you like a vegetable that last week you didn’t know existed!

Not sure what to do with your newly purchased nutrient packed produce?  I either toss them in to a salad or mix in with quinoa.  Below is one of my favorite ways to use up vegetables!

Farmer’s Market Quinoa Salad
Serves 4

You will need:
~ 4 to 5 fresh vegetables from the farmer’s market
~ 1 cup uncooked quinoa
~ ½ cup walnuts (or almonds)
~ ¼ cup olive oil, plus some for sautéing vegetables
~ ¼ cup white wine vinegar or fresh squeezed lemon juice
~ salt and pepper

First, cook the quinoa according to the manufacturer’s instructions.   When done cooking, set aside and let cool to room temperature.

The vegetables I picked up from the farmer’s market were radishes, spring onions, and bok choy.  I had left over beets and brussel sprouts to toss in as well.  To cook the radishes, bok choy and brussel sprouts first cut into bite sized pieces and then sauté with oil over medium/high heat for about 10 minutes.  I usually do the brussel sprouts separately in order to make sure each gets that yummy caramelized taste.

Here are instructions on how to cook the beets.

In a large bowl, mix sautéed vegetables, quinoa, walnuts oil, vinegar, salt, and pepper.  I then slice the spring onions and add raw.  Serve immediately!