New York has 136 farmers markets, providing fresh, local meats and produce. Before going into the many reasons to eat local, lets debunk a major myth. Often people avoid farmers markets because they believe they are more expensive than supermarkets. The truth is that the price of the same product is comparable. Certain foods are cheaper and others are more expensive but they are in range. In fact, on average farmers markets are often cheaper.
So why choose the local market over the super market? Lets talk nutrition. That apple you’re eating is packed with nutrients, right? Well, yes, kinda, depending on where its from, when it was picked and how long it has been in traveling. Once picked, produce begins to lose its nutrient content. A recent University of California Study found that fruits and vegetables lose between fifteen and fifty-five percent of their vitamin C content within the first week after harvest. Spinach can lose as much as ninety percent of its vitamin C content; brussels sprouts from California have likely lost a good deal of nutrients by the time these make it to the supermarket. What do you suppose their nutritional value is by the time they make it to your plate? Meanwhile, those brussels at your local farmers market were picked at the peak of harvest and driven to the city that same morning. If you are making the effort to be healthier, why short-change yourself?
Another factor effecting the nutritional makeup of your produce is when the food was picked. When farmers plan on shipping their products long distances they often pick the food before it has fully ripened, allowing it to ripen in transport. The problem? When food is picked before its peak it isn’t as vitamin packed as produce allowed to ripen fully. A good way to see this for yourself is to examine colors. Compare the red of a tomato at your supermarket with the tomatoes piled high at your local farmer’s market.
What’s more, larger farms have a greater chance of cross-contamination because there is often livestock nearby produce. Add in the amount of processing and workers involved in food transport and you’ll realize how much greater the possibility for contamination really is. Play it safe. Know where your food comes from.
Why else eat local? Eating with the season is a great way to add variety to your diet. We often get into food ruts and stick to what we know. Get to know your farmers, they often have great recommendations for cooking the fruits and vegetables in season. Eating local is also a great way to support your local economy. The New York population is rapidly growing, while farms are decreasing in number and increasing in size. Supporting local farmers is an important part of maintaining and growing a healthy local food economy. California may be known for their fresh food, but they’ve got nothing of New York apples in autumn.