* Thank you so much to our Marketing and Program Development Coordinator Lilly Brice for contributing this post.
It’s 9am on a crisp May morning before the heat of the day settles in. The Midwestern winter grey has officially given way to luscious green grass and clear blue sky. The tented city of fresh produce and floral arrangements is engulfed in the sea of aroma pouring from the bakery and toasty breakfast sandwiches.
Do I have your attention yet? .
Navigating a farmer’s market is a joyous whirlwind, but a whirlwind nonetheless. It is easy to get caught up in the sheer number of vendors and options without going in with a flexible plan.
Before mapping out your farmer’s market gameplan, let’s get into why it is beneficial for our individual health, the larger community, and the planet to support local farmers.
Oftentimes, industrial farmers will focus on producing profitable crops like corn or soy that can be ultra-processed and used to formulate many self-stable products in supermarkets. In addition to carbohydrate-rich processed food, copious animal protein that is higher fat may contribute to chronic disease. Factory-raised chickens, pigs, and cows are fed grains rather than grass to reach a desirable market weight at the cost of the animal’s health. To manage illness among livestock, they are often injected with antibiotics that then affect the humans who consume them.
Overproduction at the agricultural and industrial level can also cut the prices of raw materials and hurt the businesses of those who are growing the food. For instance, buying whole fruits and vegetables allows more money to enter the pockets of farmers, but the farther the raw material moves down the industrial chain, the more major corporations profit.
Not only do smallholding farmers and human health suffer the consequences of large-scale industrial farming, but the earth bears a lot of the burden. Factory farms produce more food than the American population can consume, and this waste accumulates at an alarming rate. This doesn't even include the impacts monocropping on biodiversity and the emission of fossil fuels to keep up with the rate of production!
Now let’s to the fun part - buying and tasting fresh and delicious food directly from the people who grow it!
Peruse Before You Choose
Before committing to the first juicy tomato or apple you set your eyes on, take a lap around to know all your options, talk to farmers about their variety of produce, and take in all the sights, smells, and tastes that the market has to offer.
Prioritize the Dirty Dozen
Part of your farmer’s market game plan should be prioritizing fruit and vegetables that should be organic. If you are looking to make the biggest bang with your buck at the market while saving BIG at the grocery store, try to buy items from the Dirty Dozen directly from farmers. *Dirty Dozen and Clean 15 lists available at end of post*
Get to Know Farmer’s (Ask Questions!)
Don’t be afraid to talk to farmers about their products! It is a wonderful way to learn about a variety of produce, how regenerative agriculture works, or ask about delicious ways to incorporate their food into your meals!
Don’t Sleep On Protein
It can be extremely difficult to find properly raised animal products in the grocery store (did anyone say misleading food labels??), so buying grass-fed beef, free-range poultry, and cage-free eggs from farmer’s ensures that you are not supporting industrial agriculture that abuses animals and the environment.
Be Present and Take It In
Farmer’s markets offer more than fresh produce; it offers a fun social & culturally-rich experience that incorporates community-building, environmental awareness, and consideration for local businesses. It is an experience that envelopes all of the senses and can make us feel more connected to the world around us. Although many of us shop at the farmer’s markets as a fun social activity, we can feel good knowing that we are supporting local businesses and will likely gain experiential knowledge about the quality of food we consume.
THE CLEAN FIFTEEN & DIRTY DOZEN LIST (2021)
Dirty Dozen (opt for locally grown and organic)
Sweet frozen peas
SEASONAL SUMMER PRODUCE LIST
Farmer’s Markets in the Chicago Area
Lincoln Park Farmers Market.
Wicker Park Farmers Market.
Logan Square Farmers Market.
Daley Plaza Farmers Market.
Green City Market.
Chicago Nettelhorst French Market.
Andersonville Farmers Market.
Lincoln Square Farmers Market.
FRESH SUMMER RECIPE
Summer Corn and Tomato Salad
4 ears of corn
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 cups cherry tomatoes
2 tablespoons cilantro
2 teaspoons minced garlic
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
1 teaspoon honey
1 cup queso fresco, or sub feta cheese
2 teaspoons coarse sea salt, plus more to taste
ground black pepper, to taste
Cut corn off cobs using a sharp knife. Chop cilantro.
In a large pot, heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil over medium heat.
Add corn and garlic and sauté for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat and transfer to a large bowl to cool slightly.
Cut tomatoes in half. Add tomatoes and cilantro to corn and garlic. Juice and zest the limes.
In a small bowl, whisk together the lime zest, lime juice, apple cider vinegar, honey, and the remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil.
Toss this dressing with the tomato/corn mixture.
Add optional queso fresco and season with salt, pepper, and additional honey to taste.
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Hi! My name is Sarah. I'm into clean eating, traveling (beach please), helping folks eat and feel better, birds, historical documentaries, gardening, and bopping around my neighborhood with my dog. Thanks for reading!