Farmers Markets vs. Supermarkets: Benefits of Local Produce
Did you know that the first farmers market traces back to Lancaster, Pennsylvania in the mid-1700s? These businesses have provided communities with food products long before supermarkets became a widespread convenience. Even despite how popular grocery stores have become, 8,000 farmers markets operate throughout the U.S. today — and that’s for many good reasons.
These local farmers markets support the economy, protect local agriculture and supply nutrient-rich food for the entire community.
Benefits of Farm-Fresh Produce
Participants in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), a federal food program for lower-income families, have redeemed more than $20 million in benefits purchasing produce from local farmers. SNAP partners with local growers and operators to offer access to nutritious food and security for the entire community.
When you purchase fresh produce from the farmers market, you:
- Contribute to a healthy, sustainable environment
- Support animal welfare and preserve natural resources
- Reduce or prevent chemicals from entering the ecosystem
- Support food equity
Let’s take a closer look at why local farmers markets matter.
1. Find Organic Items in Abundance
Most organic crops are grown without synthetic materials, pesticides or harmful fertilizers. The USDA reports that organic produce has fewer pesticide residues than conventionally grown produce, so you know your food is free from synthetic additives. Additionally, you’ll find less genetically modified food (GMO) products and support more humanely raised livestock when you shop at a farmers market.
Vendors at farmers markets are selected by location, quality and whether they meet ecological or certified organic status.
2. Bring Home Perfectly Ripe Produce
The key difference between farmers markets versus supermarkets has to do with transportation. Most farms that supply produce to grocers pick items while they’re still unripe. Then, they transport them an average of 1,500 miles from farm to store.
When farmers reduce long travel times, they can harvest precisely what’s ready for consumption in the season. Those who sell at farmers markets significantly shorten the distance from farm to table, so you can purchase recently picked, perfectly ripe fruits and vegetables. Plus, you can support the environment, as lower distances equal fewer carbon emissions.
3. Farm-Fresh Food Is Flavorful and Nutritious
Produce begins to lose its nutritional value after harvest. This process happens for several reasons, but it’s mainly because the fruits and vegetables undergo respiration, where they break down organic materials. Unlike supermarket shelves stocked with produce that traveled for days and sometimes weeks, you can find farm-fresh produce at farmers markets that are much fresher.
Additionally, locally-grown food is picked at peak ripeness, supplying the sweetest berries, crispest apples and juiciest tomatoes for your next barbecue.
Farmers Markets Support Individuals and Communities
By supporting local farmers and food businesses, farmers markets strengthen the economy:
- They support entrepreneurs and small business owners.
- They create local jobs that directly invest in the health and financial security of the community.
- They encourage partnerships between rural and urban community members and food providers.
Here’s more information about how farmers markets make a difference in communities.
1. Reduce Your Community’s Carbon Footprint
When you grab your reusable grocery bags and head to the local farmers market, you can feel good knowing you’re supporting the environment in more ways than one. First, many farmers sell their products with minimal packaging. Second, over 60% of farmers and vendors travel less than 20 miles to the farmers market, reducing air pollution. Many farmers who sell at local markets use healthy soil practices like reduced tilling, cover cropping and compost application, as well.
2. Financially Support Your Community and Small Business Owners
Did you know that farmers and ranchers receive less than 15 cents of every dollar spent on their produce at conventional stores? In contrast, you can significantly benefit your community’s farmers by shopping locally. By selling direct to their local consumers, farmers can cut out the middleman to earn more money. When you invest in your local market, you invest in your community for years to come.
Farmers Markets Offer a Greater Selection Than Supermarkets
Aside from fresh fruit and vegetables, farmers markets offer an incredible assortment of homemade goods, ready-to-eat meals and handcrafted items.
1. Discover Hard-to-Find Produce Options
Due to shelf life and transportability, some produce tends to travel poorly, so grocery chains don’t stock them. You’ll discover hard-to-find vegetables like red carrots and green garlic at local farmers markets, which you can’t always purchase at supermarkets. Expand your cooking skillset and learn something new — ask vendors about their favorite recipes and seasonal varieties to try.
2. Find Something for Everyone at the Farmers Market
Farmers markets offer so much more than fresh produce. They’re an immersive experience for the whole family to enjoy! Invite your friends and meet up with neighbors to stroll through all the sights, sounds, smells and activities that only a farmers market can deliver.
Breathe in the aroma of freshly baked bread, coffee, smoked meats and aged cheeses. Listen to the vendors sharing their favorite recipe ideas. Take home the perfect gift like handcrafted goods made by local artisans, or surprise that special someone with a colorful wildflower bouquet. While you’re at it, treat yourself to that shoofly pie you’ve been eyeing all afternoon.
3. Purchase Ready-to-Eat Meals for the Family
In the hustle and bustle of work and home life, meal prepping has become a popular way to save time and prepare healthy meals for the week. Farmers markets have you covered — from Pennsylvania Dutch fare to Italian dinners, local vendors offer a wide range of ready-to-eat meals to enjoy there or at home. With some markets providing the convenience of curbside pickup, your dinnertime plans are solved after a quick drive!
Socialize With Your Community at the Local Farmers Market
Get to know your neighbors at the market. Local farmers markets provide a town-square-like hub for entertainment, socializing, fostering food initiatives, increasing civic engagement and promoting food equity.
1. Spend Time With Family and Neighbors
Like a hometown diner or drive-in theater, some places become historical, magical spaces that forge memories and strengthen a sense of community for a town’s residents — and farmers markets are no exception. Nothing brings people together like food and fellowship. A visit to the farmers market is the perfect opportunity to mingle with your neighbors, friends and family for an afternoon.
2. Experience the Great Outdoors
Most farmers markets are set up outdoors, so you can soak up the sunshine and breeze while you select the perfect apples for your pie. Look forward to your spring, summer and fall weekends with trips to the market for groceries, meals, flowers and more.
3. Create Memories With Friends and Family
Maximize family time this summer and awaken the senses with new sights and smells, fresh air and bustling shoppers’ energy. Encourage curiosity and learning in your children — let them pick out their vegetables and ask them to name the different varieties they see as a fun game.
Farmers markets create family memories on-site and even at home — when you return from your trip, wash and prep your finds together at the sink. Let the kids clean up vegetables and transfer berries to a bowl, and watch them glow with a sense of accomplishment as they joyfully proclaim, “I picked that!” around the dinner table.
Enjoy Family Fun and Quality Produce at the Lancaster County Farmers Market Today
Serving the community for more than 80 years, the Lancaster County Farmers Market provides beloved local food products to customers from Philadelphia, Lancaster and all across southeastern Pennsylvania. Come out and experience delicious generational recipes at our stands open Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays year-round.
From farm to family, our market offers an immersive experience to shop freshly picked produce, aged-to-perfection cheeses, prime meats, fragrant flowers and handcrafted gifts. Meet our incredible vendors and enjoy all the sights and sounds of an unforgettable, time-honored market experience. Be sure to check our special events for fun activities the whole family can enjoy!