There are many reasons to buy your food, especially produce, from a farmers market. Here's some highlights:
- Time to table - sometimes you're buying foods picked the same day, or at least within 24hours of purchase. At a grocery store, foods are on trucks and in distribution centers for days. They last longer in your house.
- Travel to table - most farms at your markets are local to you, certainly within less than 100 miles of you. Can't say that about much of what you get at the grocery store. Read labels and boxes - Product of Chile, etc.
- Carbon footprint - you reduce your food's carbon footprint significantly by buying direct from the farmer.
- Saves money & keeps money local - there's no middleman, no upstream -- even if you're paying almost the same price, you have just significantly helped that farmer! You might think you're paying the same price, but farmers are usually more generous with their bundles.
- Wider variety - not all foods are tolerant of the manhandling and time-to-market as the ones that we get shipped thousands of miles or from out of the country. You can find not only fresher foods, but a wider variety of foods, and many heirlooms, at a farmers' market. When you don't recognize something you have the right person to ask right in front of you. The farmer yesterday explained that a butter cup squash is similar to but more flavorful than a butter nut squash. And cook it like any other squash. Sold for $1.50.
- Healthier - for many of the reasons above. Volatile nutrients are still available, variety in your diet, fresher food, and so on.
- Encourages eating your veggies. Take your kids along, let them pick out the things they like, but steer them clear of the baked goods booths. Give them a "farmstand budget" to spend on fresh produce, even if it all gets spent on berries. Let them ask the farmer for suggestions. For example, if they know they don't like bitter -- the farmer can steer them towards sweet or mild vegetables.
In the hopes of encouraging more locals to get their produce direct from farmers, I created a county farm market list that I hope is more useful. And here's a printable version (PDF).