Before I had a baby, the farmer’s market seemed impossible. I wanted to sleep in! How could this place full of folding tables and farmers be worth the loss of sleep?
Now I’m singing a totally different tune, and the list of reasons why I would skip out on a week at the farmer’s market is very small. Who needs sleep when you can walk away with (resuable) grocery bags full of fruit and veggies picked hours earlier by the very person standing in front of you?
You can find the closest farmer’s market in your area by visiting Local Harvest. Though it looks like it was designed by a seven year old, the site Pick Your Own is an awesome resource for finding out about farm locations you can visit and harvest your food yourself. Doing the work means you get a better price AND the benefit of some fresh air and physical labor. You’ll feel so good afterward! I think the easiest way to get more produce in your life is to join a CSA. With a CSA you’ll get a box of fruits and vegetables delivered to a specified location (sometimes to your door!), and you know they’ll be super fresh and delicious (well delicious as long as you like the vegetable in question). If you’re a picky eater a CSA might be a tough thing because you don’t have control over what you get, but I know I’ve lately enjoyed learning how to work with vegetables I’ve never tried before due to my trips to the farmer’s market where I can’t always by the standard array of broccoli/avocado/banana/apple/carrots like I used to. We didn’t join a CSA this year because I wasn’t sure when/where/if we would be moving, and I didn’t want to buy into something and then have to worry about selling off my share shortly afterward. Next year for sure though!
The Dallas FM was a huge disappointment for me, with only one or two sellers that were both local and organic, and only a few booths of produce that are local (yet conventional). Most of what you will find is the same thing shipped up from Mexico that you can get at your local grocery store. Except you have to lug it back to your car in your arms instead of pushing it in a cart.
I really love the White Rock Local Market and go at least once a month, mostly to make sure I never run out of my favorite nut bars from Wholesome Foods Bakery. It’s drawback is that it is about 30 minutes from where I live though, and it’s too similar to the one that’s only 10 minutes away for me for me to go every week. And it only happens on the 2nd and 4th Saturday of each moth.
The Coppell FM is really close to where I live, happens weekly, and I think it has a great selection of fruits, vegetables, meats, bakery items, and other random products, with a nice mix of organic and conventional. Parking is plentiful, but be sure to get there before 10 am (at the latest) because some of the stands get close to selling out by then. If you want eggs you’re going to have to get there before they even open! This has been my experience at all the FMs I’ve been to, the eggs sell out almost immediately.
This is the dairy stand, where you can find milk, yogurt, cheese, cottage cheese, cream cheese, and a few other dairy products, all from pastured grass-fed cows. I was having a hard time with the taste of the mil, as grass-fed milk tastes very different from grain-fed (fun fact: I was the dairy tasting FFA champion for my area back in high school. Think Napoleon Dynamite “This tastes like the cow got into an onion patch.“ ), but I bought a second half-gallon and I’m liking it much better this time, I think because I made sure to drink it when it was very cold.
Below you can see everything I purchased that week. On this trip I was buying food for the week for us, buying a bit of extra stuff for TH’s birthday dinner, and I was taking a meal to another family so I needed to purchase some ingredients for that as well. I would say this is just a bit more than I usually buy for just our family. I know some are going to ask how much this all cost, and I admit I don’t know (my finances are a mess post-baby), but I’ve committed to taking photos and tracking costs for 30 days of food purchases and I’ll be writing a post about it next month so you can see what our attempts to be localganic in Dallas are costing us.
The past two weeks that I’ve been to the Coppell FM I’ve bought a load of produce from the same guy, because he’s the organic farmer with the biggest selection. Last week I loaded up my bags and then it took us a few minutes to look through what I had and add it all up. This week I kept a list on my iPhone as I went, and showed him the list with items and quantities. He glanced at the list and quoted me $20. For that $20 I walked away with:
3 ears of corn
3 round zucchinis (I’m not sure what they are called)
3 bins of summer squash
1 bin potatoes
All organic and all completely delicious. More expensive than the conventional stuff at Walmart? Most definitely. More delicious and mouth-watering than anything you would ever find at Walmart? Abso-friggin-lutely. I also think he gave me a deal because he saw me buying from him two weeks in a row, and my likelihood of going back to see him again the next week as well is very high. This is one of the awesome benefits of buying directly from the producer! I’d like to be on a first name basis with him so I can feel like a “regular”, but we’ll work up to that.
Asking questions about what I’m buying is still one of the hardest things for me. It’s smart to find out where your produce is coming from and how it was grown. The appeal of buying from the FM is that you get local and often organic produce, if they are just buying their stuff at Smith’s and reselling it you can figure that out by asking a few simple questions. My dad (an organic farmer in WA if you didn’t know) was kind enough to send me some questions to ask, and I thought I would share his ideas with you as well:
Do you rotate your crops? (This only applies to row crops, not to orchards or berries etc.)
Do you use cover crops to build the health of your soil?
Do you use composted manure? Aged manure is not bad, but fresh, green manure I would stay away from. I apply most of my manure before I plant my cover crops. This allows me to apply a small amount of manure right before I plant the crop.
Some may say that they use compost tea. This would be a good thing, especially if they brew their own tea. I think that composted manure is the best though.
Do you plant insectaries? Or do you have natural vegetation around your farm that would attract beneficial insects?
Meat and dairy products are a completely different story and I’m still learning about animal husbandry practices and deciphering what I am not comfortable with. I found this comment by Sophia to be particularly enlightening when she commented on my post about voting with your food dollars. I admit, not thinking about where my food came from and how it was produced was a whole lot easier than this, but both TH and I feel better physically and emotionally since we started living this way. Ignorance may be bliss, but enlightenment certainly tastes better.
After writing this post I have a few questions knocking around in my head that I’d love to hear your opinions on.
1. In your opinion, which is the better choice if you were forced to choose, local or organic? This doesn’t mean USDA certified organic, just that they are not using any chemical fertilizer or pesticides. I might write a post on this in the future. Would you rather buy from a smaller farmer who occasionally sprays with pesticides or uses chemical fertilizer (in my experience, the farmer’s market conventional farmers only spray and treat when they really feel like they have to, as they have come to believe that chemicals are the only options sometimes) or would you rather buy organic produce from halfway across the country/world?
2. What questions do you ask when buying produce at the farmer’s market? What about meat? This is the area I would most like to improve on in my own life. I want to be able to comfortably strike up conversations, build relationships, and feel like I have a firm grasp of not only where my food came from but how it was raised/grown.
3. What farmer’s market in your area is your favorite one? Maybe this post can turn into a resource for those looking into visiting a market in their own area!