Would you rather stand outside on a nice, sunny day purchasing fresh, colorful foods that someone in your community grew themselves or stand in an aisle at Walmart staring at a bunch of the same product wondering what you’re actually about to purchase?
Growing up, my sister and I didn’t have to eat store bought meats, fruits, or veggies. Everything you’d find in the fridge or freezer came straight off the farm. Our family raised cattle, pigs, chickens, and even rabbits. On top of the fresh, juicy meats that came from those animals, we always had deer meat from hunting our farm as well as fresh crappy, bluegill, bass, and catfish from fishing our ponds. The crops we farmed included corn, soybeans, and hay. Besides pumpkins and gourds for Halloween, our garden included: potatoes, asparagus, broccoli, cauliflower, cantaloupe, spaghetti squash, tomatoes, green beans, sweet corn, lettuce, cabbage, carrots, onions, peppers, cucumbers, zucchini, radishes, and rhubarb. We also had a small patch of grapes to make homemade sweet, red wine. Among the pretty flowers we had apple and peach trees. Other than that, you’d usually only find milk, bread, and seasonings in our kitchen.
I know what you’re thinking…. That’s an abundance of food for just one family. You’re right! What did we do with all of the extra meat, fruits, and vegetables? We took it to our local farmers market to sell!
There are so many benefits of eating foods straight from your own farm or local farmers markets.
- Health. We all know that fruits and vegetables are an essential part of a healthy diet. The fruits and vegetables you pick from your garden or that you buy at the local farmers markets are in season and are the freshest and tastiest available. They have been allowed to ripen fully in the field and are brought directly to you. That means no long-distance shipping, no gassing to simulate the ripening process, and no sitting for weeks in storage. Many foods found in grocery stores are highly processed and grown using pesticides, hormones, antibiotics, and genetic modification. At the farmers markets, you can find meats, cheeses, and eggs from animals that have been raised without hormones or antibiotics, who have grazed on green grass and eaten natural diets, and who have been properly taken care of.
- Environment. Food in the United States travels an average of 1,500 miles to get to your plate. This requires large amounts of natural resources, causes pollution, and generates trash with excessive packaging. Eating foods grown straight from your farm or local farmers markets cuts down on the money, energy, and resources needed to ship the food to you. By cutting down on the natural resources used to transport your food to you, you’re doing your part to help the environment.
- Knowledge. It’s so important to know what you’re eating. And what better way to find out what’s in your food than being able to talk to the person who grows it and sells it to you? With the grower right there at your local farmers markets, you can find out if the foods you’re considering purchasing are organic, genetically modified, or if any chemicals were used in the growing process. Most of the growers and market owners are more than willing to talk to their customers about their products and educate them about any politics regarding sustainable agriculture.
- Support. Buying from your local farmers markets not only financially benefits the farmer but the community as well. Farmers sell directly to the consumer and the middleman is cut out which produces a higher profit for the farmer. The farmer then circulates his profits throughout the community with local merchants creating a cycle that helps to build a strong local economy. Instead of giving your money to large corporations, you’re supporting your local farmers and their families.
Being raised on a farm and in a small town was truly a blessing. Most college students are careless when it comes to what they are eating. We keep our meals quick and cheap. Let’s face it, we are broke and miss home cooked meals. I’m lucky enough to have my family send me home with frozen meats and veggies straight from our farm when I visit. Someday, without a doubt, I will raise my own livestock and grow my own fruits and vegetables. For now, all I can do is support and shop at the local farmers markets!
My name is Jillian Beach. I am from a tiny little place known as Durham, Illinois. I am a senior here at Western Illinois University! I will graduate in May 2017 with a degree in Ag Business.