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Shopping at farmers’ markets gets labeled as something that is hip and fashionable these days. In reality, it is simply going back to the way people have traditionally purchased their food. Shopping at local farmers’ markets has positive effects on the environment, our physical health, and relationships in the community.

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Farmers’ markets were originally created as a way for people living in dense, urban areas to buy fresh food from the surrounding region without having to leave the city. This model is drastically less harmful to the environment than buying food that has been grown across the world. In these cases food has to be either flown or driven many miles to a grocery store; all while being treated with harmful chemicals to stay “fresh” until it gets to its destination. Buying locally eliminates the pollution caused by this long-distance travel and the damage that these harmful substances have on the environment.

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In terms of personal health, there is no contest that the food you will find at your local farmer’s market is better for you than food at a typical grocery store. Farms represented at farmers’ markets most likely grow more than one item. This biodiversity means that they do not need to use pesticides on their food as it grows because of a process called permaculture, the practice of growing certain foods next to each other to help them develop. For instance, basil plants repel insects that like to eat tomato plants, so they are ideal neighbors. Therefore, the food you see at farmers’ markets is both less chemically treated and delicious.

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Waste has become an increasing problem as food has become cheaper and more readily available in some parts of the world. It is morally, economically and environmentally harmful. Billions of dollars are literally thrown away each year while many people go hungry, and when this organic matter fills landfills it gives off gases that are harmful to the environment. When people grab something off of the shelf at a supermarket they rarely stop to think about how much effort went into its production. At a farmers’ market the people who saw the apple you are buying grow from a seed to a fruit are the ones handing it to you. An appreciation is created for how much time and care went into this item, and as a result, an effort to eat it before it goes rotten. Another benefit to connecting with farmers is they can tell you more about how to enjoy your food and maybe even share a recipe with you that you can cook with your family or friends. Now that the season is beginning for many farmers’ markets, head out this weekend and meet, connect, and enjoy!