- “Shake the hand that feeds you.” – Michael Pollan, In Defense of Food
In an era when most of our food is shipped across the country—if not across the world—local farmers’ markets are a weekly oasis of brightly colored fruits, veggies, and flowers grown just a few miles from home. Taking the time to invest in your local growers can help cut down on the emissions created each year by food shipment, and get sustainably farmed and fresher, more nutrient-dense food to your table.
Why shop at the farmers’ market? Produce in your local supermarket has often been in storage or shipping for over a week, robbing your salads and smoothies of potent vitamins and minerals, while fruit and veggies from markets are often picked within 2–3 days of sale. Food in your corner grocery store can come from an average of 1500 miles away, a process that each year contributes to the 1 billion metric tons of CO2 created and 11 billion gallons of fuel used in shipping. Farmer markets, on the other hand, bring in products from, on average, 20–30 miles away drastically reducing fuel cost and usage.
By grabbing a great market bag or basket and bumping shoulders with the people that grow your food, you can fuel yourself more effectively and help cut down on greenhouse gas! Make yourself an even more environmentally friendly Warrior with these three tips:
1. Get out of the driver’s seat
I realized, as I was driving the two miles to my local market one Saturday, that I had just added four miles of emissions and gas usage to the peaches I was really excited to get from my grower. New goal: walk, bike, or take public transportation! In addition to saving gas, you have the opportunity to fit in a quick workout or read a few pages of that book on vegan living you’ve been meaning to read.
If you aren’t close enough to get to the market on your own power, consider carpooling with several market goers, or taking turns picking up local produce among your neighbors. Often, there are CSA pick up sites for those who do not have access to a farmers’ market. Check out your local options.
2. Ditch the Plastic
Although many market vendors are now using compostable bags, I watch every week as shoppers grab fresh plastic bags for each cache of fruit or veggies.
You can purchase reusable mesh produce bags online for fairly cheap and, as an added bonus, you don’t get moldy peaches because they were unable to breathe in their clear plastic shroud.
These are great for the necessary supermarket trips too.
If you do decide to use the plastic or compostable bags provided by vendors, consider combining produce into as few bags as possible. Next time you unload your produce, empty produce into the veggie drawer and return the bags immediately to your market basket or bag for reuse next time.
3. Make It Last
Canning, drying, and freezing local, in season produce is a great way to eat local year round! If you’re planning to can and haven’t before, your local health food store may offer classes and Ball jar sells a wonderful “Canning Discovery” kit that’s easy to use and doesn’t require much equipment. Remember to always label your jars and freezer containers with contents and date.
Tomatoes: Make salsa and marinara sauces or simply dice tomatoes with garlic for later use and freeze or can.
Zucchini: Shreds wonderfully using a large bore cheese grater. Just squeeze excess water out using a tea towel and freeze.
Peaches, Strawberries, Blueberries: Place pitted, sliced peaches, hulled whole strawberries or whole blueberries on a large sheet pan, freeze, then place fruit into BPA free containers and store in freezer until ready to use. You can also make freezer jam from strawberries, or can the peaches in syrup.
Avocadoes: Halve and pit your avocadoes, then freeze separately. Store in a BPA-free container in the freezer.
Fresh Herbs: Finely chop herbs like basil, oregano, and cilantro and place in ice cube trays with olive oil for great sauté options later in the year.
Dedicate an extra half hour this weekend to locally sourcing your fuel! Take a walk or bike ride with the family to your local market or hop on the bus and take a quick break from commuting while saving the planet—multitasking at its finest. While there, reuse bags whenever possible and buy extra in season produce to put up for the coming months, because who doesn’t love a perfectly ripe peach in their Sunwarrior smoothie in the middle of January? While you’re at it, shake the hand of the guy that grew that peach. You might be surprised at how much better it tastes.