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Find a Local Farmers Market in Your Area
Just about everyone knows by now that farmers markets are one of the best places to find great local produce. They're also great places to socialize, taste test new, fresh ingredients before you buy, and even watch cooking demonstrations and entertainment in many cases.
Farmers markets highlight the products from local farms and other agri-businesses, and they take place right in your own home town, so you don't have to travel far to find them. They've been going on for years in some locations, but they've gotten more popular in the last few years, so you should be able to find one not far from home!
The Benefits of Farmers Markets
The benefits of shopping at your local farmers market are many. First, you know the produce and other items are as fresh as they can be, because they come straight from the farm to the market. Most crops for sale at these markets are organically grown, so you know your friends and family won't be eating anything except farm-fresh goodness.
Also, farmers markets are good for the environment. Farms contribute oxygen and remove carbon dioxide from the air, which can help alleviate global warming, and usually, farmers don't have to drive too far to the market, so the environment gets another boost from using less fuel and contributing fewer emissions into the air.
Often, prices are cheaper at farmers markets, too, because the farmer doesn't have to mark up his prices to make money from a wholesaler, who marks up the prices again before they get to the supermarket. So, you're actually paying less money for a far better product, and who doesn't like that?
These markets benefit farmers, as well, because they have a weekly (or daily) market to attract customers, and they don't have to ship their products days or weeks in advance at wholesale prices, so they make a better profit, too. It's always better to buy from local farms, because the money stays in the local economy, and that means more jobs and profitability - all from buying fresh local produce!
Finding Your Local Farmers Market
Farmers markets usually run from late May or early June through September or October, depending on where you live and your climate. Really it all depends on the growing season in your area and when farmers can get their first products to market. Farmers markets are such a big deal now, that usually local newspapers will print a schedule of markets in your area as the season is about to begin.
Often, you can find a schedule from your local Cooperative Extension or county agricultural board, too. They've become so popular, in fact, that some communities enjoy several farmers markets every week, so it pays to shop all of them and choose the ones that provide the produce and other products you like the best.
What to Look for at a Farmers Market
You're sure to find local farms selling their wares at good prices, but there are a few things to look out for. Make sure the produce is ripe and hasn't been sitting out in the sun too long, or has been damaged in transport. Most booths will offer you a free taste of whatever you're looking at, so you can check out new flavors and crops you might not have had a chance to experience before.
Some farmers will even offer you recipes and other ideas on how to serve their products, too. At the really big markets, organizers may bring in free entertainment, arts & crafts booths, and other amusements to draw in the crowds, and they may even provide play areas for the kids, too.
Look for other items at your farmers market, too. Sometimes local meat, cheese, and dairy producers bring their wares, and big markets are more like a county fair, with food booths, information booths, and even games for the whole family. So, check out a local farmer market or two, and come home with everything you need for a healthy, hearty dinner.