Changing the Guard: Returning to the Age of the Farmers’ Market

Farmers’ Markets are on the rise in America. After decades of processed prepackaged foods, proliferation of fast food, and mass agriculture, there is finally again beginning to be a true market for the small farmer and healthy consumer. But how did we get away from these traditional farmers’ markets of the past in the first place?

Farmers’ markets were the traditional way in which the American agricultural system distributed its products. As a matter of fact, this was the traditional way in which nearly all agricultural systems across the world functioned.

This is due to several factors:

  • Transporting food long distances would often lead to rot and waste
  • Traveling long distances was generally an extremely difficult and potentially dangerous operation
  • Growing enough to necessitate shipping beyond the local market meant having an extremely large operation, with vast amounts of manpower

The industrial age came along for America and revolutionized the agricultural model, increasing production and overcoming these obstacles. The agriculture business was suddenly mechanized, and pesticides and fertilizers were introduced as common usage. These new systems increased production vastly, while reducing the amount of manpower needed. All this led to large farms run by fewer workers, with enhanced productivity.

Another important change was the advances in refrigeration. Although up until now there was a more primitive from of refrigeration available, in the form of ice chests, the new advances in refrigeration greatly increased our ability to distribute and maintain larger quantities of food, for longer.

The home model refrigerator also reduced our need to continually buy fresh. With the ability to reduce food spoilage, Americans began to buy food less often, preferring to buy large quantities all at once.

These advances led to our current system of agriculture and distribution. It only made sense for fewer people to be involved in agriculture, yet doing more. And, since these mega farms were producing more than could ever be used within their local economy, they would distribute it further and further from where it was grown.

Grocery stores became the norm, rather than farmers’ markets, providing a centralized location that provided everything a family might need, week round.

So Why Return to Farmers’ Markets?

Some question the return/rise of this more traditional method which highly favors local and fresh product. Well, here are the reasons why farmers’ markets are making a strong resurgence:

  • Consumers can buy directly from the farmers, allowing them more familiarity with their food
  • Freshness is assured since there’s less transportation, and it creates a natural dependence upon seasonality
  • Farmers get increased profit and consumers get cheaper prices since the middle man is cut out
  • Reduces the use of fossil fuels since food isn’t transported as far
  • Increases a sense of community and culture
  • Keeps revenue/capitol within the local economy

With all these benefits, it’s not hard to see why there’s a very real push for a return to this simpler, community based agriculture model.

There can be no doubt it is a slow process. American culture has been inundated with the idea of quick food, large portions, and cheap spending. None of which is really feasible in the realm of farmers’ markets.

Yet there are very real and important reasons to make sure farmers’ markets continue to succeed. These include health, local economies, and culture.

Health

America is becoming synonymous with obesity. This is sad, but true. And there can be little doubt this is caused, in part, by large portions, low quality nutrition, and ease of access. All of which is propagated by the current mass agriculture and distribution system.

Americans have a much higher tendency than most countries to buy large ready to make meals from local grocery stores. These processed foods are often loaded with fat, cholesterol, calories, carbohydrates, and sodium. They’re quick to make and come in gigantic portions. This leads to really poor diet and nutrition, as well as overeating.

By returning to farmers’ markets, we can improve the overall health of America’s diet. By buying fresh and seasonal, you insure the highest nutrients possible. Also, buying fresh ingredients from farmers’ markets forces meals to be made from scratch, which generally correlates to smaller portions and healthier ingredients.

Increasing Local Economies

Buying from a local grocery store can partially infuse the local economy. But not nearly as much as shopping at a local farmers’ market.

And let’s face it, most Americans tend to shop at large grocery chains. And when you shop at a large grocery chain, where your money ends up is nebulous at best. The farmer could be across the country (if not in another country altogether), and the majority of the money flows back to large corporations, making the already rich richer.

Shopping at farmers’ markets ensures your money will be going directly to a local famer, who will then reinvest that money into the local economy by investing it back into his farm.

Increasing Local Community and Culture

Farmers’ markets are great sources of local community and culture. They naturally propagate community interaction, which naturally leads to a tighter knit community.

Culture is also widely dispersed throughout famers’ markets. It’s very rare to find a farmers’ market that doesn’t include some type of local culture being sold along with agricultural products. Often you can find things such as art, music, clothing, and general everyday use items made by local venders. This coming together better helps define a community’s culture, which increases the overall culture itself.

Support your Local Farmers’ Markets

So, with all of that in mind, you should really be supporting your local farmers’ markets. Truly everyone within the community benefits; it’s a win-win all around. The local community, economy, and culture all flourish. The farmer gets increased profit and success. And customers get reduced prices, fresher product, and an overall healthier diet.

The availability of these markets will only increase with time, as more and more become wise to the vast benefits of shopping at these local venues. It is unlikely they will replace mass scale agriculture and large national chain grocery stores; but with their proliferation, options increase, allowing Americans to make a choice in their everyday life.

Going out and shopping at a local farmers’ market isn’t only easy; it’s fun too! So go out today and invest in yourself, your community, and your local farmers. Because if you don’t, who will?

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