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Grab your friends and a reusable bag and start enjoying trips to the farmers’ market

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(Julie Shamgochian/Daily Collegian)

(Julie Shamgochian/Daily Collegian)

When I go grocery shopping in the summer, it’s a few hours every week I get to spend quality time with friends, to feel the sun warming my skin as I wander through the aisles and to smell fresh berries whenever the gentle breeze decides to drift in my direction. Grocery shopping is an unavoidable part of adult life, but that doesn’t mean it has to be a chore.

Particularly enjoyable in the warm summer months while the weather and fruit are both at their peaks of perfection, farmers’ markets are fun, nutritious and environmentally friendly venues to purchase your produce and support your local farmers and economy.

Simply by taste alone, farmers’ market fruits and vegetables trump the traditional grocery store’s food. Everything that you buy at a farmers’ market is in season, meaning that it is at its most natural time to be picked.

Because of this and the farms’ close proximities, the fruits and vegetables are allowed to ripen fully while still in the field and are then brought straight to the market for patrons to enjoy. Tasting a strawberry in its ripest and freshest state simply cannot be beat by anything found in a grocery store.

Indoor grocery stores try to accommodate consumer demand by making produce, such as apples, available year-round. But unfortunately, nature does not allow apples to grow 12 months a year.

According to the United States Department of Agriculture, the apples found in stores may be around 10 months old thanks to temperature-controlled conditions. Most produce bought in these grocery chains have been harvested before turning ripe, sprayed with a chemical such as 1-Methylcyclopropene, kept in cold storage and delivered to consumers many months later.

The alternative, of course, is opting to buy fresh apples picked less than 10 minutes away.

Besides satiating the desire for extremely delicious fruits and vegetables, farmers’ markets can satisfy moral needs as well. They assure the support of local farmers by giving them a higher return instead of large, corporate farms.

Currently, there is an ongoing boycott against Sakuma Berries, the primary supplier for one of the most popular grocery store strawberry providers – Driscoll’s. The large farm has exploited workers in unfair conditions for low wages, something that is unfortunately all too common.

“Farmworkers are exempt from many of the labor laws that safeguard other workers,” said Kerstin Lindgren, campaign director for Fair World Project, in the organization’s press release. “To ask them to do some of the most difficult and dangerous work for poverty wages without laws or a binding contract to protect them is unconscionable.”

At a farmers’ market, not only do consumers often get to meet the actual person growing and harvesting the produce, but they can also befriend the animals that help out, too.

Many local farmers’ markets encourage close relationships between the farmers and customers who buy their goods. Even more unique, these individuals often get to know the chickens by name that lay the eggs being sold.

This personal connection is absent in the typical grocery store, as most of the animals are miles away in small cages, as opposed to roaming freely on local farms.

Even if the animals aren’t nearby, the farmers are almost always present at the markets to answer any questions that may arise about their products. Shopping at farmers’ markets is an ideal way to connect with where your food comes from while supporting the humane treatment of both animals and workers.

These local markets can also help the environment on a larger scale.

According to Cultivating a Healthy Food System’s website, cuesa.org, the “average American meal travels about 1,500 miles to get from farm to plate.” This causes huge carbon dioxide emissions.

CUESA adds, “We currently put almost 10 kcal of fossil fuel energy into our food system for every one kcal of energy we get as food.” This is both highly inefficient and unsustainable. Regularly visiting and supporting farmers’ markets makes the amount of energy spent more equitable to the amount of energy we get in return.

But from a more general stance, farmers’ markets are simply a fun time and provide the opportunity to be around friendly, helpful people. According to a study by Project of Public Places, “A customer has an average number of 15-20 social interactions at a farmers market versus 1-2 at a grocery store.”

Last time I went to the farmers’ market, I was perplexed by a rod of strange-looking wood on the table. The farmer proceeded to explain to me that it was sugar cane and she promptly cut off a piece for me to try right there, along with giving me some great recipes and ways to cook and incorporate it into meals. Most farmers’ markets also have homemade crafts, and often, live music.

Grab a few friends and a reusable bag and make food shopping a more enjoyable, delicious, ethically and environmentally friendly event by visiting your local farmers’ market this summer.

Madeleine Jackman can be reached at [email protected]

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