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Produce on the Cheap: Local Farmers' Markets (Part 2)

Posted by Joan Salge Blake  May 2, 2013 12:17 PM

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Photo Source: USDA
This blog is Part 2 of a 2-part series about obtaining locally grown food to stretch your produce food dollar.    If you missed Part 1 focusing on growing a garden in your backyard for fresh produce on the cheap, click here.

This week’s blog will focus on utilizing local farms, farm stands, and farmers’ markets to stretch your food dollar.  According to the Northeast Organic Farming Association of Vermont (NOFA-VT), the number of farmers’ markets in the United States has more than tripled in the last 15 years.

As with a backyard vegetable garden, produce grown at a local farm will taste seasonally delicious as it is picked and sold at its peak.  From a savings standpoint, since the fruits and veggies have not incurred the additional fuel, shipping, and packaging costs to transport them great distances to be sold, these cost savings can be passed on to the consumer.

A study done at the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture showed that the prices of produce at local farmers’ markets were the same, if not less, then those at local supermarkets.  Another study conducted by NOFA-VT showed that the majority of organic produce at nine farmers’ markets was less expensive than similar organic choices sold at local grocery stores. 

From an environmental cost standpoint, the carbon emissions associated with the transport of food from farm to supermarket can be substantial.  Greenhouse gases, which include the carbon dioxide and other gases released when fossil fuels are burned for energy, are an environmental concern.   The gases absorb and trap the heat in the air and re-radiate that heat downward, contributing to the trend in global warming.

The lettuce that you put in your grocery cart at the supermarket may have traveled 1,400 to 2,400 miles to reach you.  Thus, buying locally grown produce has environmental benefits, as the less your food travels, the less energy is being used, and less carbon dioxide gas emissions are being created in getting the food to you.

To encourage more local farming, the USDA, through their Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food initiative, has made nearly $10 million in grants available for farmers’ markets, community supported agriculture, and road-side stands to help assist and expand opportunities for local farmers.   These funds and efforts can help make nutritious, affordable, and locally grown foods available in your community.  To help you find a local farmer’s market or farm stand near you, both the Local Harvest and Know Your Farmer, Know Your Farmer websites allow you to enter your zip code to find sellers in your area.

The following chart can also help you determine when your favorite produce will be locally in season so that you can plan your selections accordingly:

For produce on the cheap, it pays, both monetarily and environmentally, to buy local.

Where in your neighborhood do you buy locally grown produce on the cheap?  Please share your finds below.

                                       Follow Joan on Twitter at:  joansalgeblake
Originally published on the blog Nutrition and You!.
This blog is not written or edited by or the Boston Globe.
The author is solely responsible for the content.

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About the author

Joan Salge Blake, MS, RD, LDN, is a clinical associate professor and registered dietitian at Boston University in the Nutrition Program. Joan is the author of Nutrition &You, 2nd Edition, More »

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