Saturday kicked off Chicago’s summer farmers market season with the first outdoor Green City Market at the south corner of Lincoln Park. Moss celebrated the first week of fresh food with our updated Summer Farmers Market Map Series. Follow the link to find locations for markets near you on any day but Friday. The city now boasts FIFTY EIGHT separate market date/locations (many of which accept LINK cards) so there’s no reason not to roll on down to your own local and check it out.
Here are 5 reasons you should support farmers markets:
1. You Get Great Tasting Food
Perhaps the best reason to snag produce from the farmers market is also the most pleasantly selfish one. Local fresh produce tastes fantastic. Small farmers choose fruit and veggie varieties that are known for their flavor, not their ability to last in a refrigerated truck. Even non-organic producers don’t need to resort to as many chemicals to keep their veggies happy from farm to plate. So while there are a million reasons its good for the earth and your fellow humans to eat local food, the number one reason to do it is for yourself – it just tastes better!
2. You Know Where It Comes From
Your farmer will be thrilled to tell you all about the produce they’re selling, from how it was grown to the best way to cook and eat it. Many also encourage farm visits so that you can meet the chickens laying your eggs and confirm that your future side of beef really is happy on the hoof. Just Ask. The checkout guy or gal at your local grocery probably has no idea where the food they see you comes from – or even who buys it for their store – but when you hand over a five at the farmers market, the odds are good that the person who takes it, pulled your produce out of their ground yesterday. There’s a lot of satisfaction in that kind of short supply chain!
Plus you know where your money is going as well. A few years ago CNN estimated that farmers receive only 16 to 30 cents out of every dollar spent on food. The rest goes to trucking companies, refrigeration, grocery stores, and advertising … in short, not to the producers of food. How sad. Its always a refreshing change to know that our food dollars are going directly to the food producer!
3. You Support Local Small Farms
You can’t really get food sourced closer to home than the City Farm Farm Stand (unless you grow it in your own backyard). We love the idea that a minimum of transportation energy and packaging goes into. Every farmers market has its own set of rules – our neighbor city, Madison, specifies that all the produce sold at the Dane County Farmers Market, which wraps eight blocks of the capitol square must be grown in Wisconsin.
Here in Chicago you’re likely to find vendors who have trekked west from Michigan and Indiana, or south from Wisconsin, as well as up state from Illinois but they will all be part of the greater Chicago food shed, not shipping their produce in from Washington State or California. That means their produce will be fresher, their transportation fuel use lower and their dollars will stay closer, than when you buy from a grocery store.
If you’re torn between farmers market or grocery shopping – do both. Treasure Island Foods is pioneering once a week farmers markets at two north side locations starting next week. They’re listed on our map post along with all the others!
4. You Get Out Into Your City
Checking out a new farmers market is a great way to explore a distant part of the city … or a fun way to revisit the best parts of your own neighborhood. Not only will you meet friendly farmers (obviously), when you support farmers markets you’ll meet your neighbors and run into your friends, or make new ones. Why not make a Saturday morning tryst with your partner or best friend and kick off the weekend with a stroll through the neighborhood to pick up tasty produce. You can choose a new route each time and explore your city while you sample great food
5. You Can Walk There
Or, if you drive, you walk around once you get there. Having people on the street is a key component of healthy neighborhoods and most parts of Chicago are very walkable and ditching your car to wander a friendly farmers market (instead of driving to a grocery store parking lot) will improve your fitness, your state of mind, and even your bank balance. Check out our post on the value of Walkable Neighborhoods for more.