Support your Local Farmer’s Market

by James & Miel on August 29, 2009 · 0 comments

One of my favorite things about the city where I did my undergrad were the farmer’s markets in the area. I’d wake up (relatively) early on Saturday morning – when it wasn’t football season, of course – and head downtown to check out that weekend’s offerings. I’m not really a vegetable guy (my wife sometimes complains that I have the diet of a little boy) but I do love fruit. And at these farmers markets, I could get plenty of fresh fruit, but there were also plenty of vegetables if you were so incline; as well as flowers, baked goods, art done by locals artists and general crafty-type things. It was a great way to spend a Saturday morning. Find your local Farmer’s Market here.

Supporting Local Merchants

Farmer’s markets are typically run in the Spring through the Fall (usually ending in late October or November), one day a week in the morning. The one closest to me runs from May to November on Thursdays from 8:00am to 12:30pm. It’s a little inconvenient for anyone who works a full time job, but if you’re able to make it, I strongly suggest you check it out. Farmers markets offer numerous advantages over buying your produce from an outlet store. Most people assume that prices are more expensive than going to your local grocery store. In some instances, this is the case, although it’s been my experience that prices are very competitive.

It’s the product itself that makes the extra effort of going to a farmers market worth it. First of all, the food is much fresher. I hate going to a grocery store, and standing there, trying to pick out a decent tomato and seeing nothing but undersized tomatoes with bruises or soft spots or even cuts on them. That’s not something you’ll see at a farmers market, where all of the food has just been harvested and everything looks fantastic.

It’s much fresher, and in much better condition, due to the fact that it didn’t have to travel a long distance to get to where it is. The fact that the farm is less than an hour away from the market truly makes a significant difference. Also, it feels good to be supporting local farmers, artists, craftsmen, etc… I believe these types of events builds community, and it’s an excellent opportunity for a vendor to expose themselves to a large number of people. And as a consumer, they offer the opportunity to pick up interesting items that you can’t go to your local Target and purchase.

Open-Air Markets

Like a farmers market, which typically occurs only once a week, open air markets (which are usually open all the time) are an experience. I was fortunate enough to visit the Pike Place Market when I was in Seattle last year and it was awesome. The Pike Place market is famous for being the location of the original Starbucks; the famous “flying fish” vendor is also located in that market. A friend of mine bought a painting from a local artist and one of the girls I was traveling with bought some freshly cut flowers. When we were done walking through it, we ate at one of the restaurants in the area and the food (and beer) was amazing. Grocery shopping can be quite a chore some times. You make a list, you drive out to some dingy store, get your cart with the messed up wheel and perform an activity that is the epitome of a “chore”. But farmers markets and open-air markets distinguish themselves by making it a much more pleasant, community-oriented experience that feels nothing like a chore. You won’t be saving money, but you are not just paying for the food but also the experience and quality that is provided.

Farming Co-ops

If farmers markets aren’t really an option due to the time when they’re offered, you have other options, such as farming co-ops, where you pay a certain amount of money (typically ranging from $100-$500), and local farmers either deliver food to your home, or to a local drop-off station. They only downside to co-ops is sometimes you don’t have much control over what you get (a friend of mine once had 5 lbs of dill delivered to his home) but it’s another great way to support local farmers and get some fresh goods.

Relationship to Personal Finance

For me, this type of topic exemplifies an important point about managing your personal finances. Is going to a farmer’s market the most “frugal” thing to do? No, probably not. I can get by without a lot of that stuff, and if I wanted to save money I could do my produce shopping at Walmart and get roughly the same items. But they wouldn’t be as fresh, the quality wouldn’t be in the same ballpark and I wouldn’t enjoy those items nearly as much. I greatly enjoy quality, fresh food. I don’t mind spending $20+ on a bottle of excellent olive oil (yes, there is a huge difference between that and the cheap stuff) or spending some extra cash on some fresh fruit, vegetables, meat or dairy items. It’s not worth it to me to pinch pennies on those types of items just to save a few bucks. There is a time for living frugal, and a time to save money on products, but there is also a time to spend extra for value. The positive experience that I gain from those items more than makes up for the money that I could have saved.

-Michael

P.S. We DINKs, particularly Miel, loves the variety of farmer’s markets here in DC. What a wonderful benefit to urban living. We might not make it out to the farm, but the farm comes to us. Will be headed there today!

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