To me, farmers markets are a haven of delicious smells, of community, of adventure for your taste buds — in some cases, a terrifying plummet down a spicy hole of terror that leaves your mouth on fire, your eyes watering and your whole life flashing before you — and most importantly, of free samples.
Although it might seem like the once-a-week pop-up is just an outdoor, hipster version of a grocery store, it is, in fact, so much more. The farmers market is a powerful focal point for communication and connection between the growers and the eaters of the community.
Locally sourced food, produced by your neighbors and community, has a higher chance of being grown in an environmentally sustainable environment. Data has been collected to confirm that money spent at a local business generates 3.5 times more wealth for the local economy in contrast to the money spent at chain businesses. In addition, the health benefits from locally sourced products are well known. From sustainable farming comes produce that is often pesticide-free, preservative-free, improves nutrition, supports varied dietary needs, encourages well-balanced eating and improves food safety.
Having an open platform to speak between the producers and the consumers is an incredible opportunity for education, for discovery and for growth. Trying the different products sold by individual people opens up the possibility for tasting different foods and understanding new cultures. When buying local food, you’re not only supporting the people you get to meet with and speak with, you are supporting the local economy, reducing the amount of food that could possibly be brought to the store and thereby reducing the opportunity for higher costs associated with transportation and packaging of items (an additional plus for saving the environment).
Farmers markets are not an uncommon thing. In other parts of the world, a market-styled grocery is the primary way to shop. In Israel, for example, walking through a “shuk,” or marketplace, is an opportunity to learn about language, to compare market prices and to stroll through numerous delicious smells and tourist-catching artisan shops.
This weekend, the Binghamton Food Co-op partnered with Off Campus College Transport to create a free blue-bus service to the Broome County farmers market, and I was grateful to meet the people who brought me beautifully colored carrots, who passionately spoke about how they grew their potatoes and fragrant mint leaves and whose rainbow chard literally shined under the droplets of water keeping them fresh and clean. Small business owners offered handmade soaps and lotions made from goat milk, suggesting scents that I’d enjoy. There was flavored kombucha sold by a man who animatedly told me the life story of the actor or actress the flavors were named after and a woman who tenderly cared for her plants as if they were her children, offering them to me with so much trust and care.
A farmers market is an amazing way to bring the community together. It’s an aesthetic and social hub for organic foods, arts, crafts, flowers, children, dogs and the very best that life has to offer — all in one beautiful package offering ways to give back.
So, for the people, for the environment, heck, even for the fancy cheese, I urge you to buy local. Support your roots!
Hannah Gulko is a junior majoring in human development.