In our quest to eat more locally and seasonally (continued from last year and spurred on by my recent reading - Plenty and Animal, Vegetable, Miracle), I plan to highlight some of the resources that have been helpful. May and June are usually the beginning months of the farmer's market season, so I will also begin sharing some of my finds and trying some different markets. This may be helpful to some of you that live here in Indiana and may encourage those of you living elsewhere to look into your own local markets.
I will say that (as I have mentioned before) Trader's Point Creamery is my favorite local market so far. The produce and meat are mostly grown and raised using organic or natural practices. The farmers are always willing to answer questions and they have a beautiful location that just inspires your creativity. The other shoppers are always friendly and I've had several products recommended and recipes shared.
Shopping at a Farmer's Market takes a little extra time - you can't go whenever you want (usually they have 1 or 2 days a week) and you may not be able to buy all the things on your grocery list. I would contend, however, that patronizing the local farmer's market accomplishes many things:
1) Supports local agriculture.
2) Ensures the highest quality of food.
3) Creates awareness of seasonal foods in a society where you can buy all foods all year.
4) Fosters a feeling of community as you rub shoulders with vendors and other shoppers.
5) Decreases our contribution to the energy crisis.
6) Inspires with it's beauty and tantalizing sights.
We are committed to it for all of the above and because it just tastes better! I have found that my "needs" from the grocery store are less and often I will skip it all together in favor of the farmer's market. I would rather pay a little more for better quality fruits, vegetables, and meats that are locally produced. And the best part is that it isn't always more expensive - it depends on what you are buying, when you are buying it (as in time of year), and how much was grown (how well the crop did). Another wonderful thing is that your money is going directly to the farms and the families that run them.
Some things to consider as the market season begins:
1) Be willing to try new vegetables and fruits - the farmers will tell you how to use them. We discovered watermelon and lime radishes last year and really enjoyed them.
2) If you like something, be sure and tell the farmer the next time you are at the market. I know it would make my day!
3) Bring your own baskets, tote bags, or re-usable bags - they may have plastic ones available but it's far better for the environment to bring your own.
4) Know that you may spend a little more but consider the benefits. Remember these are almost always family-run farms.
5) Purpose to use everything you buy - maybe you can cut some other things out of the budget and maximize your use of the great products you find.
6) Return egg cartons as much as possible if you buy the farm fresh eggs (I highly recommend them!).
7) Ask the farmers questions - they love what they do and are usually proud of their products. They will share information about their farm, nutrition, recipes, etc. They are a great resource and have lots of experience.
Enjoy it! There really is nothing like wandering around the market feasting with your eyes and maybe with your mouth, too. They often feature yummy baked goods in addition to produce!
To find a market near you - check out this site listing Indiana markets. For those of you not in Indiana, try this site, check with your local health food store, or find them listed in the newspaper.