I sit here and type this as the sun is shining in the early morning in Western Pennsylvania, which gives me hope. Spring is here, summer is just around the corner. My garlic is starting to show it’s scapes, potato plants are getting bigger and strawberries are flowering. My main garden isn’t even in yet. This wonderful weather is ideal…ideal for food growth. And what I cannot grow myself, local farms can. The local Farmers’ Markets will be starting any time now.
When I was a kid I didn’t know there was a thing called farmers’ markets. I grew up on a dairy farm, the Farmers’ Market was my backyard. While my mom didn’t do a large vegetable garden, she always obtained large amounts of varying fruits and vegetables. I knew the words bushels and pecks from a young age. My mom did have garden, but it was much more appealing to the eyes, her green thumb was spent with flowers.
My paternal grandmother was an avid gardener. Mainly because she raised seven kids, and that’s no easy task in any decade. Gardening was a way to feed the family as economically as possible.
The concept of eating local could not come closer. Our meat (beef) and dairy came from the farm. Not to mention the small amount of pork we ate would come at times from the pigs my grandfather would raise at a joint farm he and my dad owned. My aunt would pick bushels from local orchards and mom would can or freeze them. Lastly, our sweet corn and black raspberries came from the farm as well.
Homestead Living to Modern Day
In the mid 1800’s living on a homestead was common. Many times people lived in areas close to family and they jointly worked the land to provide as much of the daily food via the homestead and landscape around it. Anything else was purchased in town or traded for.
As the United States moved more into industrialization people moved away from homestead living. City living became the new normal. However, you could still find rural living and farms people bought from.
After World War II we shifted again, but this time we became a world of modern convenience. Everything became about making cooking faster, easier and food lasting longer. Grocery stores became a common thing after WWII and that is in part because the availability of freezers. People could buy food at the store and keep it at home for a longer time. More women were working outside the home and the need for quickly prepared food became a normal thing.
Local Food Movement
Over the past few decades there has been this growth in local food. Lights have been shown on how far food travels to arrive on your table, sometimes known as food miles. Non-chain and other small chain grocery stores try at times to utilize local produce or other foods from small producers. However it can get lost among the large variety of foods that are convenient at the grocery store chains.
So often we as a society are so busy, the idea of stopping elsewhere is inconvenient. We even take it so far as to have food shipped to us via meal prep programs. Please understand, everyone’s circumstances are different. However, we have removed the need and want to support local farmers and growers.
Buying local has numerous benefits: supporting local economy, less resources used, community comradery. These don’t even touch on the nutritious aspects. Food that travels looses so much of the nutrients the longer it takes from picking to eating. So often, at the farmers’ markets have food picked that morning or the day before.
When the 2020 pandemic hit, more people took to supporting local. One, to support those within our community, two because it was easier to obtain food when there was shortages. A large portion of people started gardening to grow food again.
As the 2021 growing season goes into full swing, research the local farmers’ markets near you. As rurally as I live, I can name two within a fifteen minute drive of our house. Consider making the farmers’ market a weekly stop. If you have never ventured to one, you will be amazed at all they offer. Local vegetables, fruits, mushrooms, honey, eggs, meat providers, and bakeries are just some of the foods you’ll find. Some of ours also include: local wine, meads, liquor, pet foods, oils and flowers.
My doctor has told me before, the healthiest way to grocery shop is to stick to the outer aisles. Those are the freshest foods. Ironically, that is what is being offered at the farmers’ market! You will eat simple and healthy by shopping there. Make your local farmers’ market a place to visit this year. Your body and taste buds will thank you!