Fall in love with a community-based lifestyle.
Typical Saturday mornings are spent sleeping in, which is wonderful and perfectly acceptable, but I'm here to propose a new (more so, classic) weekend ritual- the local farmer's market. If you want a fun, planet-friendly, pet-friendly, family-friendly, just supper damn friendly way of stocking up on your goods, go check out your local providers for a change.
In Sarasota, FL, as well as many other parts of the world, weekend markets are stirring with color, music and the makers of things. The smell of coffee vendors and street side music fill the air while the city's cutest canines are the life of the party. One obvious note about any local market is the sheer happiness on everyones faces, it truly brings out the best of the town. Don't get me wrong I still hit up my local Super Market for things I genuinely need, like wine and vegan ice cream, I've made it my weekend ritual to stock up at the city market.
Maintaining a plant-based diet (or just a healthy diet in general) requires having a steady supply of various veggies on hand. Living a plant-powered life through a supermarket is totally fine but to me it can have a cold corporate feel and lacks the love of a community-based market, it can also be more expensive. Meeting the growers, slowing down, knowing the people behind my purchases gives me a deeper sense of connection to my lifestyle. Connection to community, to my health and to my environment, which is why I’ve fallen so in love with a local lifestyle.
So here are a few reasons why you should consider adding the Farmers Market to your list of weekly to-dos.
5 Things to Love About Your Local Market...
1. Supporting Local Supports the Planet.
Food is one of the top contributors to human-based carbon emissions today, directly contributing to climate change. I mean think about it, it's grown, reared, farmed, packaged, shipped, stored, finally purchased, cooked and often times thrown away (throughout that entire process...sigh). The energy that goes into our food is such a massive process and we aren't really trained to think about it. BUT the good news is that you can eliminate a lot of this excess carbon by simply shopping more locally.
Purchasing produce and goods that are locally sourced can cut your food emissions by A LOT. According to the Michigan University Center for Sustainable Systems eating locally grown food for one year can save green house gas emissions equal to driving over 1000 miles. So not only are you helping to economically sustain your local community and support a neighbors dream, you are getting more sustainably sourced, guilt-free goodness onto your plate.
2. Plastic Free Produce.
One major bonus of shopping at the market is the opportunity to get all your produce PLASTIC FREE, but it requires some attention. Plastic is a global problem, we know this. Yet still we find ourselves acting "blind" to plastic and how it sneaks into our lives everywhere we go and the market, sadly, is no different. Some of my favorite stands at the market still offer various items in plastic bags...trust me I'm working on it. But the bottom line is plastic is cheap, convenient and the current social norm.
So look for produce that is not sold in plastic bags to stock your fridge that week. My plastic free go-to's are tomatoes, onions, peppers, garlic, potatoes, eggplants, squash, cucumbers, heads of lettuce and fruit!
Purchasing smaller items that need to be contained in bundles such as green beans, berries, loose greens, mushrooms etc, can be a bit more tricky to get without the plastic crap...I mean wrap. I look for stands that keep items like these in bulk or store them in small paper produce boxes. Bring a few small cloth bags to put these more delicate items in to avoid the plastic waste. You can also look around for paper bags in a pinch!
I really encourage you to kindly mention at checkout or to the stand operator that you love their produce but hope that they will consider plastic alternatives such as paper or boxes or even a small "bring your own bag" discount. Generally everyone I have spoken to is very receptive and thankful for community feedback. Businesses want to give their customers what they want and who knows, you might just inspire some change!
3. Eat More, Spend Less.
A lot of people ask if it is more expensive to shop at the Farmers Market than the supermarket. The ambiguous answer that I wish was more black and white is, it depends. Saving money at the market (both Farmers and Super) depends on the choices you pick. Price is influenced by season, availability, region and source. Sometimes you can get better prices at the supermarket and sometimes you can get better deals at the farmers market, depending on the product. It really depends on what the farmers decide to charge for their various items.
HOWEVER, I save a significant amount of money by shopping at the Farmers Market because I look for the cheapest prices at the market for various products, take advantage of deals like buy 2 get 1 and I'm ok with it if I can't get everything on my wish list. Eco-consciousness is a compromise! I am happier supporting farmers on a local level with minimal environmental impact to supply my diet, it also pushes me to get a bit more creative with my meals. Typically I will do all my shopping at the farmers market first and if there was anything I really needed that I couldn't find I just make a pit stop on my way home to the grocery store
4. Eat With The Season.
The beauty about shopping local is you will usually be given choices that are in season. We live in a convenience culture that has the power to give us anything we want, when we want it. If I want avocados in the dead of winter or cauliflower in the heat of summer, I can easily hit up the supermarket or even order them online. Obviously that is kind of awesome, but again we have to think about what kind of carbon footprint that leaves behind!
Eating what's in season is a big part of eating more sustainably, which can be hard if you live in an area that experiences rough seasons. So if you live in a region that does not offer the farmers market during certain months of the year my advice is to buy local as often as you can and pay attention to where Supermarket produce is sourced from.
In the months that you can't, look for produce that is locally grown indoors or shipped from neighboring regions. Purchasing seasonal produce can typically be cheaper than items that have to be shipped in from a greater distance, so it can also help you pinch some pennies. See what produce is available in your area throughout the year!
5. Locally Sourced Love
Long before Super Markets and convenient stores, there were roots. Community roots. Communities relying on the local craftsman and the creators. Everyone depending on their community, a mutual balance. The balance in our food system is no longer mutual. From corporate greed, to chemical use, cheap has become the name of the game- not sustainability. We have strayed away from the stable practices of our past and have become victims of the "future". We have an opportunity to correct our current mistakes, learn from our actions and foster lifestyles that can have a positive impact on our health, wallet and planet.
Locate your closest community market, grab your baskets and bags, then discover all the goodies you can find in your own neighborhood!
Your daily choices have a greater impact than you may think, on your life, loved ones and the environment. Check out your market, embrace your community and maybe fall in love with a more sustainable, eco-conscious way of doing things.