Farmers Markets: Food For the Body, Grown in Your Neighborhood

By The Chronicle

It’s spring and time to get outside, get some fresh air and take advantage of the longer days.

It’s also a good time to start thinking about where your fresh vegetables come from. Consumers who don’t grow their own vegetables have three basic shopping choices: a chain supermarket, purchasing a share in a community-supported agriculture program, or a local farmers market. Which to choose?

More and more people are choosing the latter.

Farmers markets all are about one thing: living and eating locally. There are seven to choose in the Lewis County area during the spring, summer and early fall months. Such venues are a rapidly growing fixture in the American urban landscape, where local crafters, food growers and consumers converge in one place to haggle over fresh, nutritious vegetables, flowers, crafts and other goods made by local farms and businesses.

Becoming a “locavore” – someone who tires to eat only locally grown food and produce – has multiple benefits. Today’s processed food travels on average 1,300 miles and fresh produce over 1,500 miles before it lands in our plates, according to the National Sustainable Agriculture Information Service. All this transportation, some say, unnecessarily contributes to carbon dioxide emissions. More importantly, it distances food consumers from food growers and the methods they uses to cultivate their produce, underscoring one of the benefits of buying local food: you know where it has come from.

Farmers markets are a growing local business model. Between 1994 and 2010, the number of farmers markets more than tripled nationwide, from 1,755 to 6,132, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. A 2006 USDA survey found that over 60 percent of farmers markets required that their venders themselves grow the produce they sold.

Farmers also wish to form relationships with their customers. During the summer many have designated times when customers can visit their farms and see firsthand where their food is coming from and how it’s cultivated. Dates are often listed on their websites, Rose said.

Farmers markets also help the local economy. Audrey DeMoisey, treasurer of the Mossyrock Farmers Market, noted last year that they only allow homegrown or homemade products or “value-added” goods – mass produced products that are modified by local crafters – to be sold at their market.

“We’re trying to stay local … trying to support the local economy,” DeMoisey said.

Most farmers markets have a similar creed, although not all are equal. Some markets have more craft vendors than food, while others accept various food subsidy payment options, like food stamps.

Officially recognized farmers markets are certified by the Washington State Farmers Market Association, and must accept EBT payments, WIC coupons and FMNP. To be certified, 51 percent of market venders must sell food products verses decorative plants or crafts.

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