Farmers’ Markets Are Booming
Driving a New Hyperlocal, Health-Focused Food Movement
Farmers’ markets are one of the most exciting elements of the current food and health scene. They are a fast-growing force behind a lifestyle movement that has people from all walks of life seeking out hyperlocal alternatives for food and activities, while prioritizing a more authentic style of hands-on healthcare.
According to the USDA, listings for farmers’ markets jumped 76% between 2008 and 2014. And it isn’t just because the fresh fruits, vegetables, and other local products taste better and are healthier than the supermarket options (and often surprisingly affordable as well).
Wherever a farmers’ market springs up, there exists the potential for it to become a community hub.
Farmers’ markets are helping drive a renaissance in local food systems with especially powerful benefits for urbanites, who are increasingly demanding fresh, healthy, affordable, and local foods.
This surge of interest in local food is inspiring a host of related sub-movements, including the “farm to _____” trend (farm to table, farm to fork, farm to school, farm to institution, etc.). Like farmers’ markets, these allow local producers to meet face to face with consumers, forming new bonds and reinforcing relationships within their communities.
This renaissance has created a boom in support of so-called alternative agricultures as well. Urban and suburban foodies increasingly seek out Community Supported Agriculture (CSAs) and backyard agriculture for specialty products like garlic ramps, heirloom tomatoes, and local eggs that are hard to find at King Soopers and are relatively expensive at specialty grocers.
Local municipalities are also getting involved. The city of Fort Collins has updated its land use policies to encourage urban and backyard agriculture beyond gardening, such as the raising of chickens, ducks, and specific breeds of goats.
Local food benefits both the individual and the community.
Health – Local food is a strong contributor to your health because it encourages a variety of fun and physical activity for folks of every age and in every walk of life—it’s fuel for your Northern Colorado lifestyle! Fresh produce has more nutrients than food that has traveled a long way to get to us as transportation of produce degrades the nutritional benefits. You may read more about this in Dr. Sprowell’s article in the July issue of BizWest.
Local Economies – Independent farmers are empowered to cut out the middlemen and to keep a bigger portion of the proceeds for themselves. This often means the difference between keeping a generational farm in the family or selling it off to a faceless corporation.
Many other local businesses, such as bakeries and coffee shops, also see these benefits as ripples of good fortune spread throughout the entire local economy.
The Environment – Because local food is often organic, fewer pesticides and herbicides contaminate our groundwater topsoil, rivers, and lakes. And since the farms are usually fewer than 100 miles from the markets, less fuel is necessary to get them to your table than to ship them across the continent, thereby reducing air pollution and greenhouse emissions.
Farmers’ markets are also driving demand for sustainably raised meat. This benefits the environment because grass-fed cattle have a smaller climate impact than their production line, grain-fed counterparts. They’re also more flavorful, so even a meat-and-potatoes lover should be able to get behind this movement!
Intense Flavors – Anybody who truly loves food will tell you that tomatoes (for example) bred to be road-ready are just not as delicious as the ones you get when you visit your favorite heirloom tomato supplier at the Drake Road or Fort Collins-Loveland Farmers’ Markets.
And this is true virtually across the board when it comes to fruits and vegetables. The characteristics that make it possible for a tomato to travel thousands of miles without bruising are the very characteristics that make them taste like cardboard.
These benefits are some of the primary reasons we’ve spearheaded What the Health, NoCo.
We believe that when consumers take control of their own food and healthcare options, it can only have a positive impact on the well-being of our communities, neighborhoods, and families.
Here in our own Fort Collins community, we’ll be supporting the movement by visiting farmers’ markets and local events throughout the summer. And it’s not just AFM. We’re inviting local restaurants and chefs to get involved, too, by joining us at farmers’ markets for cooking lessons, tastings and other deliciously healthy events.