Some of us are hooked on the beautiful, fresh produce, the lively, open-air atmosphere, and the opportunities to connect with farmers, vendors and friends that Swampscott Farmers’ Market. Others may need to be convinced of the benefits, asking “why shop at the farmer’s market when I can buy a greater a variety of things, often more cheaply, at my supermarket?” There are a lot of reasons to buy locally grown food. Here are three right up top:
One, buying at the Farmer’s Market supports local farms and families. Farms have been vanishing from the American landscape at an alarming rate over recent decades—small, family farms in particular. The wholesale prices that farmers can get for their products are usually very low, often not more than the cost of producing them. In the industrial farming business, small farms cannot compete, and many farmers end up selling their land for development. But when farmers can sell directly to consumers for the full retail price, cutting out the middleman, it helps families to continue to farm their land, preserving the local economy.
Two, it’s more sustainable. Food that is grown or raised and harvested close to home is transported over much shorter distances than is common in the conventional global food system. Locally grown food actually gives us access to rarer, tastier varieties of fruits and vegetables because they haven’t been genetically selected to withstand being transported hundreds or thousands of miles and then warehoused (sometimes for weeks) before arriving at the grocery store. Many of the farms that sell at the Swampscott Farmers’ Market have a strong commitment to sustainable methods of farming and to growing heirloom varieties of produce and livestock. Smaller farms can also manage their crops and livestock in ways that have a lower environmental impact than can massive industrial farms, but those low impact methods are more labor intensive, which is why the Farmer’s Market can sometime be a little more expensive.
Three, the Farmer’s Market builds community. When you buy your produce, meat and fish directly, you’re engaging in a time-honored connection. It helps us to know more about the place we live and its seasons, and people and processes that provide what we eat. It’s also a lot of fun. With live music, artisanal foods and crafts, and special kid-friendly events, shopping at the Swampscott Farmers’ Market can turn a boring errand into a festive family outing.
So maybe you can’t by a papaya from Mexico or tomatoes in early June, and maybe you’ll spend a bit more for that beautiful head of lettuce (picked that very morning) than you would at the supermarket. But you’ll know that, in a small, very pleasurable way, you’re participating in the stewardship of our local economy and landscape.