Every Wednesday and Saturday until October you can take a stroll through Fountain Park and smell fresh cilantro, strawberries, peppers and many other delicious fruits and vegetables that speckle the park.
This is all thanks to local farmers throughout Sheboygan County. According to Nutrition.gov, here are the top five reasons why local farmers markets benefit everyone involved:
By buying locally, you support the local farmers and economy. TheCensusofAgriculture reported that from 1997-2007, agricultural sales in local food markets doubled to $1.2 billion. This means that buyers are demanding more food to be grown close by where they can directly purchase it. Without the middleman, small farmers get a larger profit. Farmers’ incomes can then spill into other local businesses, creating a positive cycle of moving money around the community.
Fresh fruits and vegetables are full of important nutrients for your body — like antioxidants. Antioxidants are substances that delay or completely stop certain types of cell damage. Some examples ofantioxidantsare beta-carotene found in carrots and vitamins A, C and E. Antioxidants stabilize “free radicals” that can form in the body. In high amounts, these free radicals cause damage to cells. Your body only makes some antioxidants, so it relies on you eating things like fresh produce for extra help. Eating more foods with antioxidants has been connected to preventing the types of free radical damage linked with cancer development.
It protects our environment. Local food does not have to travel far. This reduces both the carbon dioxide emissions and packing materials involved in transportation. Statistics show that produce found in grocery stores has traveled an average of 1,300 miles for up to14 days. As an added bonus, fruits and veggies taste much better and have more nutritional value closer to the harvest date.
Communities are strengthened. Going to local farmers markets gives you the unique chance to come to face to face with the farmers that have grown the food you buy. By talking to them, you can learn about how and where your food is grown. It is also a fun place to catch up with family, friends, and neighbors.
You can try new fruits and vegetables. Have you ever tasted kohlrabi or rhubarb? What about gooseberries? Some lesser known fruits and vegetables are usually foundamongmorecommon produce items at farmers markets and they are also tasty and nutritious. Try something new.
Julia Darnton, a Michigan State University Extension educator, speaks to the importance of local farmers markets, concluding that “Markets are anchored in community, connect people with each other and valued commodities, and creates opportunities for business.”
The Sheboygan County Interfaith Organization organizes the Sheboygan farmers market June through October on Wednesdays from 9 a.m. until 3 p.m. and Saturdays from 8 a.m. until 2 p.m.
A rangeofartisanproducts beyond produce can also be found at the market in Sheboygan. Like produce, these products are a part of the positive cycle of spreading money locally and building relationships. Go to the next farmers market nearest you to join the movement.
Lauren Smith is an AHEC intern for the Division of Public Health.