Spring has sprung!
For those of us in the US, we are currently smack dab in the middle of Spring. During this time of year, not only do the days get longer, but the temperature warms significantly, springing forth new plant growth. For many different people, Spring is a celebration, symbolizing new life for many cultures and religions. Farmers markets are just one of many avenues that showcase what new life the earth has to offer, providing fresh and often minimally-processed foods to their visitors. During the spring season, many farmers markets (if not already year-round) open up shop, welcoming people for the first time that year.
Here in the Bay Area, there is an abundance of year-round farmers markets. Founded in 1943, San Francisco’s Alemany Farmers Market has been referred to as the “granddaddy” of them all, providing generations of people with fresh produce.
Even before the Alemany Farmers Market came into existence, for centuries, people all over the world have gathered together in this type of marketplace, where producers sell their food directly to the consumer. You can find not just fresh fruits and vegetables, but also meats, seafood, cheeses, fresh flowers and even local honey. These marketplaces are a great reflection of the local culture, finding foods that are only grown or made in that area of the world, non-existent in most other places.
With the emergence of the fresh food and farm-to-table (or farm-to-fork) movements, farmers markets’ popularity has soared. Since 1994, the numbers listed in the USDA Farmers Market Directory grew from under 2000 to more than 8600 currently registered, organized and managed by local governments, community and farmers’ groups, and even local companies.
Shopping at farmers markets can play a major role in living a healthy lifestyle. Getting those steps in as you walk around, breathing in fresh air, and producing Vitamin D from safe sun exposure are all benefits of visiting a farmers market. Here, you can meet the local people responsible for bringing you a great variety of food, fresh and seasonal products that are natural and organic, as well as environmentally friendly. Shopping locally can help minimize waste and pollution, by decreasing the natural resources and time used to transport food from the point of production to the markets.
A variety of foods with their assortment of colors often represent different vitamins and minerals. Vitamin A rich foods, important for vision and immune function, are often yellow and orange in color, like carrots, sweet potatoes and squash. Foods high in Zinc tend to be the browner foods, like grains and meats. Zinc can also help with the immune function, as well as wound healing. Farmers markets are perfect places to find an array of colorful foods that you can add to your plate.
Meeting the farmers can also create opportunities to discover new foods you may not encounter at your neighborhood retail grocery store. Feel free to ask that vendor about that fruit or vegetable you’ve never seen before. Don’t hesitate to ask them how they would prepare it for a meal, and you may just discover your next new favorite food.
This season is just the beginning for these markets. Now is a perfect opportunity to unearth what your local farmers have grown, right out of the ground close to home, just for you.
For more information on how to find your local farmers markets, check out these links!
Farmers Markets Coalition
USDA National Farmers Market Directory