Friends think I’m crazy to shop weekly at the farmers market. Organic food is widely available at many stores in my town, often at a lower price. On my meager income, surely I could get more for less if I weren’t such a, um, food snob. But shopping the farmers market is a festive, convivial experience where getting less and paying more is actually a better deal, for the consumer and the farmer.
When More Is Less
First, let me explain how, at a conventional grocery store, more is usually less. More food for less money means squeezing farmers and producers. Most of the ones I know put in long, hard hours for very little pay. Cheaper food means more uniformity in the shape and color in your produce, more miles traveled and more money for the store’s CEO. This all translates into less relationship with farmers and producers; less variety and integrity of shape, color and above all, flavor; and diminished nutritional value due to long-distance shipment.
How Less Is More
I appreciate getting less. Less choice means I don’t get a headache contemplating what to buy, and I know that the local produce and products I enjoy are adapted to this region and in step with the season. When I buy less for more, I’m less likely to waste it or eat too much. Transporting my food shorter distances means less pollution, less time between the vine, stalk or tree and the dinner table. Fresh tastes better. There’s less packaging—more time to do fun stuff instead of dealing with trash. All this less-is-more means more money and incentive for the farmer to care about the ecological, social and local layers of sound, organic food production. And locally grown means food with more nutrition for me and my family.
Getting More for Less
If you’ve stayed away from the farmers market for budgetary reasons, try arriving in the final hour. Vendors are often willing to bargain so as not to have to haul unsold fare back home. Plus, most farmers markets accept EBT cards, the electronic debit cards that have replaced paper food stamps. At my market, they are an acceptable substitute for regular credit cards when buying wooden tokens for use at the market. If you have an EBT card or are part of a WIC (Women Infants Children) program, most farmers markets offer incentives to shop there. Robust, delicious nourishment, after all, should be everyone’s birthright.
Local, organic farms produce more fertility and fewer pollutants in the ecosystem surrounding my town, so the air and water that flow into my watershed are healthier. The more relationship I cultivate with my community, the more likely I am to extend my consciousness to the entire interconnected web of life on this little blue planet. Sustenance from local farmers and small-scale producers nourishes both the ecosystems in my body and the watershed in my mind.
By supporting local food, we can set in motion relationships that help us make the transformation from being misguided consumers to Earth citizens. This is a revolution that begins with taking back our food. And it’s a mouthwatering, nourishing and satisfying one.
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