Corn on the cob tastes best when it’s purchased directly out of the back of a farmer’s pickup truck. This is one of many things I learned when my mom and I began shopping at a farmers market during my teen years. I was already an avid gardener. I knew the joys of eating homegrown tomatoes, which are hardly related to those Styrofoam tomatoes sold in stores. The farmers’ market was a great place to buy things we couldn’t grow or didn’t have room to grow in our small family garden.
When I moved 300 miles from home after getting married, it took a while to hunt down the farmers’ markets in my new city. I finally found a good, relatively close market this spring. On Saturday mornings, my husband, two daughters and I drive down to the local market to take in the sights and buy locally produced goodies like asparagus, strawberries, rhubarb, beef, and bacon. The farmers market has become a welcome part of our weekend routine, for many reasons:
Reasons To Bring Kids To The Farmers Market
1. The food we buy at the farmers’ market is fresh, in-season, and healthier than some of the food on grocery store shelves. Produce from the farmers’ market tastes better because it is picked when it’s ripe and quickly brought to the market. Grocery store produce is often harvested before it’s ripe to extend its shelf life and to allow time to transport it to the store. Farmers’ market produce is also less likely to be doused in pesticides.
My husband and I have become especially interested in grass-fed, hormone- and steroid-free beef. It’s healthier and more environmentally sustainable, and it’s actually a family thing for me. My dad’s cousin, Joel Salatin, operates Polyface Farm in rural Virginia and has appeared in documentaries like Food, Inc. Many of my foodie friends know of and adore him. His farm’s increasing fame has gotten my husband and me to think more about our food. We are researching buying part of a cow from a local farmer and have purchased small amounts of various beef cuts from the farmers’ market to see how we like the taste of leaner meat. So far, it’s been tasty.
2. We support the local economy when we shop at the farmers market. For the last few weeks, we’ve purchased strawberries and rhubarb from a small stand run by an Amish family. We’ve bought beef from a farm stand run by a husband and wife and their grown son and his wife. I love knowing our money is supporting families like these. Sometimes local food is a little pricier than grocery store merchandise, and other times my husband has noted the prices are the same. Bacon, for instance, costs about the same at our farmers’ market as it does in the store, and the farmers’ market bacon isn’t pumped full of water to make it look bigger, so it doesn’t shrink when we cook it. Because the food is local, it also saves on gasoline and other transportation costs. Food in grocery stores sometimes travels hundreds or thousands of miles.
|Hula hoops and live music at the market.|
3. The farmers market exposes our kids to new experiences, foods, and animals. This spring, my daughters have been able to pet sheep and look at scarves and other products made from sheep’s wool. The girls and my husband ate rhubarb for the first time when I baked it with local strawberries. The rhubarb brings memories of my late great aunt’s large patch that grew in the back yard of her Indiana home. My grandmother would visit her and bring us plastic grocery bags filled with the green and pink stalks to cook up. I like sharing rhubarb and those family stories with my own daughters now, and I like giving my daughters the opportunity to see where their food comes from. It doesn’t simply appear on grocery store shelves.
The best is yet to come when we shop at the farmers’ market this year. We haven’t even gotten into tomato and corn season. I’m counting on the farmers to keep me supplied with real tomatoes because sometimes I just can’t win the battle against wildlife who steal tomatoes off my back yard plants. And when the corn harvest arrives, I hope I can find a farmer who sells it right out of the back of his pickup truck. That’s the kind that tastes the best.
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