By Jamie Hofling | July 18, 2014
The air fills with the smell of smoking sausage and scones. People stroll amidst fresh flowers, vine-ripened tomatoes, and aged cheeses, chatting with farmers and artisans.
Farmers’ markets are places where food producers gather to sell fresh products directly to consumers and are found all over the world. Kansas farmers’ markets vary greatly in size, product variety, frequency and length of the season.
I live in a community that already had a thriving market when I moved here two years ago. I also spend a lot of time in other communities, where the enthusiasm for farmers’ markets is infectious. Many communities want to start or expand a local farmers’ market. Communities benefit from local farmers’ markets in many ways.
- Provides for Community Gathering
Creating an atmosphere that brings people together is incredibly important. We live in a time where people are spending less time collectively and more time alone. An open-air market full of fresh food and homemade canned goods is a splendid place to greet your fellow community members.
- Demystifies Your Food
Many of us are far removed from the source of our food and its nutritional value. Farmers’ markets put us in front of the producer where we can learn how it was grown, how to prepare it and maybe something about is nutritional value. It helps to know how to eat a Jerusalem artichoke before you buy one!
- Encourages Young Entrepreneurs
Students can get involved by growing produce in their school garden and selling the bounty at the market to fundraise and gain entrepreneurial skills. I met a young entrepreneur at the Northwest Kansas Youth Entrepreneurship Challenge who has a stand at their local farmers’ market and manages it on her own. She’s getting a well-rounded entrepreneurial experience interacting with customers, selling goods, and earning an income.
- Makes an Economic Impact
The market gives vendors a place to see and converse with their competition, critical for product enhancement. It gives growers a place to sell excess or use as their sole place for distribution. Jobs are created as a result too, not just for the vendors and their farmhands but the staff that organize the market. And dollars exchanged at the market stay local, creating a seismic wave that benefits the local economy.
- Increases Access to Healthy Local Food
Many communities are food deserts with limited access to fresh, healthy, or affordable food. Processed and fresh food that travels a long distance also does not have the nutrition density found in fresh food grown locally. The lack of access and nutrition density contributes to a poor diet and can lead to other major health issues. Added bonus: Locally grown food tastes richer!
- Is Fun and Inspiring!
Having a farmers’ market to visit regularly makes grocery shopping and conversing with fellow community members more enjoyable. At the market you’re out in the elements, enjoying (or dreading) the weather, exchanging meal ideas, buying from local farmers and learning about the food you consume. I always walk away from the farmers’ market smarter about food and more grounded in my community.
For a list or map of Kansas markets listed with the USDA and locate one near you; visit http://search.ams.usda.gov/farmersmarkets/.
Farmers’ Markets are one of my favorite places to visit for all the reasons listed above. I hope this series reminds you why your local farmers’ market is so vital to your community and if your community does not have one that it gets you fired up start one.
Stay tuned, the next entry will share examples of Kansas E-Communities who have a thriving farmers’ market.