Farmers markets: The garden of eating

A Wednesday walk down Eye Street in Washington, D.C., is no longer just a monotonous commute to class.

It’s an eye-opening experience in edibles. I’m talking about farmers markets.

The FRESHFARM Foggy Bottom Market offers more than 10 vendors who sell different types of locally grown produce, sweet and savory baked goods and homemade condiments.

I love farmers markets because I like supporting local businesses and eating seasonally.

In contrast to grocery stores, farmers markets are fluid spaces. They provide seasonal bounty and create community among food producers and consumers.

Vendors often allow shoppers to try free samples and some even give you the details on how the food was grown or produced.

That’s how the fruit vendor got me.

I stopped to try a Honeycrisp apple from the Quaker Valley Orchards kiosk. The seller explained that the produce is harvested the day of the market, keeping it fresh.

Not only did the apples at the farmers market taste fresher than the ones at Whole Foods, but they were also better priced.

At Quaker Valley, all apples sold for under $3 a pound. On the same street, Whole Foods sold Honeycrisps for $3.99.

I sampled cider as the vendor continued to talk to me about the benefits of buying locally grown food. Her amiability, charm and price convinced me to buy a dozen apples.

With over 200 farmers markets in the DMV area and over 8,700 farmers markets across the country, there’s no shortage of places to shop and no reason not to frequent the alternative marketing venues.  

In short: shopping at farmers markets allows you to eat cheaper, eat better and eat healthier.

Farmers markets also promote sustainability and curb greenhouse gas emissions, thus combating climate change.

According to the Worldwatch Institute, the average plate of food on an American table travels 1500 miles before being eaten. These food miles add up — taking a toll on the environment and the actual products. Food items that travel long distances often require refrigeration to preserve their shelf life, making the food less nutrient dense.

Now, when I walk down Eye street on Wednesdays, I come prepared with a reusable, canvas bag. And every week, I fill it up with seasonal foods that are fresh, flavorful and full of nutrients.

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