By Trudy Toliver, Executive Director, Portland Farmers Market
Recently, I spoke at a conference on healthy aging for boomers called Enjoy the Journey. Most of the audience was already farmers market shoppers – but they learned some new tips and were eager for more with questions afterwards. Here are ten reasons to make shopping at a farmers market part of your life.
- It’s a community – Shopping for food can be a chore – or it can be a splendid, outdoor experience in a colorful friendly environment. Studies show that you’re 10 times more likely to have a meaningful conversation at a farmers market than at a regular grocery store. Come by yourself and make some new friends or make a day of it with family or friends. One Saturday I noticed a pair of white-haired ladies in the mid-morning watching the chef demonstration at our PSU Market, then I saw them shopping and later they were still there chatting and giggling into the afternoon over lunch.
- Get to know the face behind your food – Remember when a family knew their butcher and their baker? At a farmers market you can get to know the people who grow, raise, bake, preserve and prepare your food. You can learn their names where they do their work and what life is like for them. And they get to know you too, remember you and your favorite choices.
- Try something new – Ever get tired of the same ole same ole? It wouldn’t hurt ya to try something new. My goal for new this year is to serve-up kohlrabi, first I learned to spell it. Several farm stalls offer it in two shades, purple or white. They also have recipes for how to cook it, so grab the recipe card when you pick up your kohlrabi. Recipes for all kinds of unusual and familiar foods are available at many vendors’ booths. There are also lots on our website.
- Play or learn something – I mentioned those ladies who I saw at the chef’s cooking demonstration, we’ll that’s not all we’ve got. We regularly have food tastings sprinkled about a market, bingo for seniors at the NW market, kid’s cooking classes, live music, special holiday events – like a costume parade near Halloween and lots more. If you have grandchildren, any of our markets is a great place to take them for a safe, fun way to spend a few hours. See our website for event details.
- Have a meal – Sometimes shopping for food makes one hungry. If you’re not hungry when you get there, the smell of what’s cooking may change that. So, bring your shopping bag, then come early for breakfast or stay for lunch! Most farmers markets have hot food vendors and places to sit and eat. Many of those vendors source their ingredients from local farmers and serve it up fresh to you.
- Get some exercise – walk to your neighborhood market or walk around it a few times when you get there. Do a preview-walk; you’ll see more when you’re not looking for anything specific. Bring a rolling cart to push home your treats or carry it for a little weight training.
- Buy in bulk to save – I’m still eating berries in my morning yogurt from last season. I buy when there are plenty and the price is right then seal and freeze them to enjoy year round. Orchard fruits, pickling vegetables, zucchini, peppers, tomatoes and more can be preserved or cooked and frozen to enjoy later. Buying when food is at the peak of its season is the time to get the best price. Shopping around at the market is another way to save, each farm sets their own prices and they can differ. You might even be surprise to know – that we have valet tables. At the PSU market for example, you can safely leave your flat of food at our information booth then drive up to put them in your car.
- Get more for your money – If you participate in SNAP (formerly known as food stamps) or Senior Farm Direct Nutrition vouchers – come to a market. All markets in the region accept SNAP and many farms honor vouchers. Our Buckman, King and NW markets offer a program called Fresh Exchange that will match your SNAP purchase dollar for dollar up to $7. A great way to increase your buying power.
- Eat seasonally – Primal man, to whom biologically we are nearly identical, ate seasonally for thousands of years. As Americans, we’ve come to expect tomatoes and cucumbers all year round because the grocery stores import them from as far as Ecuador. In the NW tomatoes are ripe July through September. Gorge on them fresh in the summer and save winter for and root vegetables and dark leafy greens. Eating seasonally and locally reduces your carbon footprint too.
- Take care of business – Just buying locally makes a big difference. They say that every $1 spent at a farmers market boosts the local economy with $1.78. That’s a pretty good return on your investment. You may want to combine your market visit with a trip to other stores or businesses in the area. Most markets are located near a business district or in the midst of it.
Farmers markets are chock-full of local vegetables, fruits, meats, cheeses and eggs from surrounding farms and ranches and a lot more. You’ll find breads, pies, salami, pesto, honey, flowers, wine, pasta, plant starts, seafood and more. A whole shopping basket full.
Make shopping at a farmers market a part of your life – to eat well, to make friends and to be a part of your community.