Today where I live in Burnaby BC (next door to Vancouver) it is a beautiful sunny day and here spring will soon be around the corner. I know a lot of North America is still digging out and shoveling snow, but here our thoughts are turning to the return of the Farmer’s Market season.
So why did I call this blog The Undiscovered Country? Well beside being a hat tip to my fellow Star Trek fans, it is a sad reality. I am amazed at how many people I speak to who say “Oh I have heard of farmers markets. One of these days I should go.”
So why SHOULD you go? Simply put – fresh fruit and veggies direct from local farms. Besides fruit and veggies, you can also find artisan breads, cheese makers, fish mongers and more.
It is fun to walk among the stalls and maybe try a nibble here and there. I am a cheese fanatic so I love visiting the cheese makers and sampling their wares. I love discovering a great cheese I have never tried before.
I also know where the food is coming from. There is organic for those who prefer it, but I know that the products are produced locally. In our area, that often means less than 50 miles away. I am supporting local growers and makers. The food has not been trucked from thousands of miles, which means it has retained more of it’s nutrients which is why we are eating healthy in the first place.
I have a few tips for you to get the most out of your day at the market. I do mean your day. Resist the urge to zip through like we do with so much of our lives. Take the time to enjoy the sights, smells and tastes of the farmer’s markets.
Let me give you a few tips.
1. Organic Versus Non-organic. As I mentioned, both are usually available, but the fact they are locally farm grown makes it pretty even. One thing in your favour is that you get to ask the farmer directly about their farming methods, what kind of pesticides they use etc. You can satisfy your knowledge without going through super market middle men.
2. Taste test A lot of farmers, cheese makers and other food producers will often have samples for you to try. My wife and I always have a light breakfast before going to the market because we know we will be nibbling. Fresh artisan breads baked that morning, cheese locally made, various vegetables – some familiar, some not, fair trade coffee and tea and more await your taste buds.
3. Bring shopping bags or carts Reusable bags are encouraged, and some vendors even offer little discounts if you bring your own bags. I was at a health show recently and purchased this wonderful little cart that folds flat but opens up to what is referred to as a granny cart. I can’t wait to try it out this summer and load it with fresh goodies.
4. Bring your own coffee mug or travel mug Not much point enjoying that fair trade coffee of organic tea and then adding to the landfill with paper cups.
5. Bring a cooler (but leave it in the car) We always bring a small cooler with us to keep our purchases fresh. It is amazing how fast veggies and other produce goes wimpy in a hot car trunk!
6. Try something new As I mentioned, there is a lot of chance to sample stuff and sometimes chances to try something new and different. I have never been able to drink coffee so I am bit of a tea connoisseur and love discovering new teas.
7. Bring the kids It is a great way to introduce your kids to healthy eating. They get a chance to see fruits and vegetables the way they should be. There are weird shaped carrots, not perfectly round apples, and some things they have never seen. They can talk to farmers and learn more about where their food comes from. The sooner kids get to know and understand their food and to learn about healthy eating, the better.
8. Learn to buy in season Your local supermarket has foods all year round but they are often trucked thousands of miles. The way people used to shop was by the season. Learn what grows at what time of year. You will often find fruit and berries in May, corn comes along in August and my favourite – apples – come along in September. When you get them home, look for recipes using these seasonal items.
9. Bring cash in small bills This is a big help to the farmers. What does everyone do on the weekend? Hit the bank machine and get a bunch of 20’s. It doesn’t take long for a farmer’s cash float to run out if 10 people in a row have a twenty dollar bill. They will really appreciate you having small bills or coins.
10. Treat yourself but be careful I would be remiss as a person who advocates healthy eating if I didn’t give this little warning. Buy your fruits, veggies, cheese, eggs and other basics but limit the splurges. What kind of splurges? Maybe some fresh baked cookies, or a jar of honey or fresh maple syrup depending on where you live.
11. Choose early or late If you shop early in the day you will get the best selection, but if shop later in the day or even in bad weather when the crowds are down, you will often get some bargains. The farmers would rather sell it than load it in the truck and take it home again.
12. Tell your friends The small family run farm is becoming an endangered species and the farmer’s markets are a good way to support these farms and keep them running and providing us with healthy and nutritious foods. Maybe you can help someone on their road to healthier eating.
Until next time, have a healthy and happy day.