Believe it or not, my fiancé Kylie and I went to three farmers markets over the last week. I know, a little extreme, but these were the first of the year here in the Park City area and we couldn’t help but indulge our food obsession and see what the new season has to offer. We started off at the Park City Farmers Market at the Canyons on Wednesday, then went to the Downtown Salt Lake City Farmers Market (which is celebrating it’s 20th anniversary) on Saturday and finished with the Park Silly Sunday Market.
These are the three main farmers in our area, but we aren’t the only ones in the US who are lucky enough to have a number of markets nearby. According to the USDA, in 2011 there were 7,175 farmers markets in the US. That’s almost 4 times more than in 1994 when there were 1,755.
So there seems to be much interest in farmers markets today, so why do people go to them? Well, some people believe there is an environmental and economic benefit. All of this is important, but also debatable, with many scientists and economists debating for and against it.
I personally feel there are more practical and cultural (and maybe selfish) reasons to attend a farmers market. So here are the reasons why I go to farmers markets. They aren’t going to disprove any stuffy economist or scientist, but I personally feel they are hard to argue against.
- Variety – For those who know me, variety is the most important aspect to life. Living in NY, I used to go to three different pizzerias on a Friday night because one made the best grandma slice, another the best white slice and the last one a killer Sicilian vodka slice. Good farmers markets will offer a variety of vendors and producers who may introduce you to something new. Maybe the ramps are in season or its the garlic shoots. Did you know there’s saffron being grown in Utah? I didn’t until last Saturday. And guess what, we bought a bunch of bulbs so we can try to grow our own.
- Sampling- OK, so this is the frugalness in me coming out, but vendors at farmers markets typically offer the chance to try it before you buy it. Maybe it’s unusual, all natural preserves or a unique pickle. You don’t need to buy a whole jar to find out that you don’t like it.
- Food knowledge- The farmers market is the perfect opportunity to talk to the growers and producers to learn how single source honey is harvested or a sheeps milk bloomy rind cheese is aged or all natural preserves are canned. Having this knowledge connects us closer to our food and creates a deeper appreciation for how its made.
- Taste – All I’m going to say is that I prefer the taste of a tomato that is grown nearby and ripened on the vine than one that is grown 2,000 miles away and ripened in the back of a trailer. If I have a little extra money in my pocket, I’ll choose the farmers market tomato every time.
- Community – If you don’t want to face potentially large crowds or be exposed to blaring music than don’t bother coming to most farmers markets. They are created to draw people together, help them forget about their everyday lives and sell them some locally produced food. You may make a new friend…you may not. It is healthy for a community to interact with each other in a positive way. If you’re a psychopath and don’t see value in this, enjoy the rest of your lonely existence.
- Innovation – Markets are also starting to inspire collaboration among the producers. At the farmers market in Salt Lake, Squatters Brewery created a brew called Bumper Crop that is a honey ale made with locally harvested honey and locally grown lavender. It has a floral head and an effervescent finish. The best part is that $1 from each large bottle of beer goes back to the farmers market. Without the farmers market, we wouldn’t have experienced such a tasty brew.
These are my reasons, though I’m curious to hear why you do or don’t go to farmers markets. Y0u can respond in the box below. We won’t judge you. I promise.
Thanks again for your time.