I’m loving the rise in allotment projects, farmer’s markets and growth of online locally grown businesses. It shows change is happening and that people are discovering the benefits of eating more natural organic foods. One of my favourite outings over the weekend includes jumping on a bus with empty bags in hand and heading to a local farmer’s market. I’m all smiles and always surprised at what’s in season and how tasty everything looks. I always come home uber excited with a rainbow of colours in my bags and it makes me happy to know I have lovely fresh seasonal food easily accessible and ready to eat!
For the city folks who don’t know what a Farmer’s Market is, below is a short explanation.
It’s a little like uncovering gold beneath a generic plank of wood or going to the supermarket (which I find so boring and do out of necessity if I have to). Now back to being serious, it’s where local farmers and producers of food (that use local ingredients) can sell their produce and products directly to us, the general public. This is why the food is affordable, fresh, seasonal and not only more nutritious for you but also supports local business, growing communities and the environment. There are approx 450 farmers markets in the country, and these markets have rules which include:
- All producers must sell their own produce
- The stall-holder must be the person who has grown, reared or produced these products, or a family member that is directly involved in the production.
- All produce must be local.
Flaming galahs and cockatoo’s, did you know that? But unlike the robot like checkout counter’s you can ask questions about the products you are buying or are thinking of buying right from the source and get a happy well informed human reply. I find this activity very enjoyable, as I like to know the best ways to grow plants (free gardening advice for a novice and my tomato money tree is still alive), how I can cook something if I have never heard/tried it before, what animals are fed on and if they roam free outside. Store holders are becoming tech savvy and most of the time seem have a website or a way you can contact them if you have further questions. Everyone is so happy to chat, because they take pride in what they are selling and it is that intention and love for what they do which makes the food that much more satisfying and delicious!
Why buy locally sourced food?
Besides the nutritional benefits, taste and personalised service from producers, you are also helping to lessen the environmental impact of food transportation i.e. carbon footprint. If people changed to buying goods that are locally produced there would be an approx. saving of £2.1 billion pounds per year in congestion and environmental costs, not to mention the fact that some foods have been travelling for up to 6 months before it reaches you (picked before they are ripe and ripen with gases before put on the shelves – nutritious, NOT!).
If you fancy yourself to be a bit of a treasure hunter or need an adventure outing with the kids why not go to a ‘pick your own’ farm? There are lots of them around the UK and not only can you see the source of where your food grows, but many offer free tractor rides (by the way, you don’t have to be a kid to enjoy them), it’s seasonal, they may have other homemade products and best of all you can ask as many questions as you want about the food your buying (great for inquisitive kids who love to say why).
Danger Will Robinson… I don’t think that regularly ingesting small amounts of toxic chemicals from mass produced cheap foods are good for me, so I just simply don’t. Yes there is the argument that these toxins are ingested at such microscopic quantities it apparently ok, but over time everything adds up to something big, so why bother when there is so much affordable, nutritious food that is so easily accessible?
I don’t have time to visit a Farmer’s Market?
Tick tock, tick tock – time is life and for me what I consume is a sign of how much respect, value and appreciation I have for my life. I understand that we all lead busy lives don’t always have time to make it to the markets, but don’t despair you can do a little healthy noshing by shopping online from the comfort of your own home. I’ve noticed a rise in online locally sourced businesses and I want to kill the myth that you can only get set boxes of fruit, meat and vege. Most online organic locally sourced shops also have individual items for those that don’t want to eat onions for the next two weeks, they also have boxes for tailored for 1-5 or more people and buying pre-selected boxes works out cheaper and is a great way to get started. Buying boxes are like buying in bulk and great if you have a large family. The key is plan your meals so you don’t over order and let anything go to waste as organic food does go off faster because it’s not pumped with chemicals that make it last longer.
What’s in season?
I like to celebrate and eat foods that are in season, because that’s when you get the most flavor and nutritional benefits from food. Eating seasonally is a tummy dance to honor the natural flow of synergism between us and mother earth. It shows our respect for our conscious food connections, so we should support our local growers and their seasonal produce! Buying seasonally is also when it is the most affordable, so buying extra is a good idea, as it can save you cost’s later if you freeze and preserve for later in the year. This is something I used to help my grandma do as a child. Back then I didn’t understand how important it was and it was more about climbing trees and who could fill the basket the quickest (yes my nana was a very resourceful and clever women). Now I really appreciate those memories and I think if she was still here she would be really proud of me and what I’m trying to make people more aware of.
Now back to the question of what’s in season (from what I’ve seen) carrots, broad beans, onions, tomatoes, cucumbers, spinach, squashes, courgettes, salad bags, garlic and berries galore. It’s a good time for anyone wanting to visit farmers markets, as the variety of foods is in abundance and colourful, lets not forget how us British love to talk about the weather, which is so nice at the moment, so why wouldn’t you want to shop for your food outdoors?
My top farmer’s markets tips
- I take material carry bags everywhere, as they last longer and look prettier than plastic ones. I do also carry a spare plastic one or two incase I get fish or vegetables that have a lot of dirt on them
- I always ask questions and have a little chat with the seller, as it’s a great way to find out about something new and what’s coming out next
- I buy organic meat because it offers better animal welfare, especially for pigs and poultry, which are the most abused of livestock at most farms. At the markets I always ask about the animal welfare and check out the farm’s ethos and environmental policy
- If there is something you like (I love berries) when in season I tend to buy more and freeze them so I can add them to smoothies and recipes in winter
- I like to go in the morning so I’m not disappointed when things I wanted to buy have all sold out
As this website grows I’ll be doing a directory of where you can get organic produce online (at the moment I used Able & Cole, if you like the look of what they have to offer please let them know I introduced you and we both get a nice present from them, I can email you my customer no). My food trove of treats this week from the farmer’s market cost me just under £30 and included: Sausages 9 (different flavours and 3 were banana and bacon), courgettes, salads, lettuce, squashes, buffalo steaks, mushrooms, tomatoes (even green ones), cucumbers, onions, gooseberries, herbs & peppers. I couldn’t fit it all in the shot, but you get the idea. So I urge you to support local food and give your nearest farmer’s market a try…