Why Shop at Farmers' Markets?

Apr 28, 2016

Cortlandt Manor, NY

Today, everyone knows that fruits and vegetables are important for a healthy diet. Most are naturally low in fat and calories, and none have cholesterol. They are important sources of vitamins and minerals including potassium, dietary fiber, folic acid, vitamin A, and vitamin C. According to the USDA, eating a diet rich in fruits and vegetables may reduce the risk of heart disease, obesity, and type 2 diabetes, and may protect against certain cancers.

Here in the Hudson Valley, many farms and farmers’ markets provide community members with a variety of seasonal fruits and vegetables. A farmers’ market may not be the most convenient place to buy produce, but there are many reasons why it might be the best place to shop.

One reason: fruits and vegetables bought locally may be more nutritious than their grocery store counterparts. A plant’s nutrient content is influenced by a number of factors, including the specific variety of the plant, its ripeness when harvested, and the distance transported to get to your plate.

Produce available in grocery stores is often grown by farmers all over the country, or even halfway around the world. Farmers must choose varieties with thick skins that resist bruising in order for produce to survive the long journey. Unfortunately, varieties that are selected for durability may have fewer nutrients than those that are grown for local markets. On the other hand, farmers that grow produce for local markets can grow more tender, nutritious and spectacularly colored fruits and vegetables because they know their fragile products will not travel far to reach customers.

Additionally, produce grown for farmers’ markets is harvested at peak ripeness, so you’re almost guaranteed to get the best possible flavor. Some farmers will even offer a taste test before you buy! This ripeness is the source of another nutrient bonus at farmers’ markets: fruit allowed to ripen on the plant has more vitamins and minerals than fruit picked unripe.

Farmers are proud of the fruits and vegetables they grow, and farmers’ market customers have the opportunity to ask questions about each farm and product. If you’re not sure how to use an unfamiliar fruit or vegetable, vendors are happy to offer recipe suggestions and growing tips for your own vegetable garden. These face-to- face conversations are another benefit of shopping at local farms and farmers’ markets. By speaking with your farmer, you not only learn more about their products, you also have an opportunity to connect with other members of your community.

So, what are you waiting for? Stop by a local farm-stand or one of Westchester’s many farmers’ markets. In addition to Saturday and Sunday markets, there are a number of weekday markets in the area. See you at the market!

-- Monica Dietrich is the Community Outreach Coordinator for the Harvest for Health TN Farmers’ Market at NewYork-Presbyterian/Hudson Valley Hospital. For more information, call 914-734-3797.