I Need You To Come To the Farmer’s Market With Me

"BUY LOCAL!!!!" - Demery Gijsbers

I am more passionate about this than caps lock and any number of exclamation marks can convey. There are so many important reasons why you should get comfortable and well-acquainted with your local farmer's market, and more specifically, the farmers themselves. They are absolutely incredible people doing incredible things and no amount of love for Kroger and Whole Foods and other grocery stores (which I have a lot of love for) can change how important buying local is. I'm also not about to sit here and pretend to be an expert on this topic, because this is something I've only learned about within the last couple years. My knowledge is changing and growing daily and gosh, is it exciting!! And as an aspiring user experience designer and urban planner wrapped up into one person, I can't help but see the Farmer's Market as an incredibly designed community user experience.

My adorable mother supporting her local farmers in Detroit! 


A trip down Memory Lane: My first ever trip to my now much-beloved Ann Arbor Farmer's Market was as a freshman in college in the middle of winter with a good friend of mine. She smiled at and spoke with the farmers (who were standing out in the blistering cold for hours btw). She knew some of them on a first name basis, and told me of the days when she was a farmhand. There is an appreciation that comes with actually being out there working on the farm, she explained to me. You could tell they truly cared for each and every product on their table (at least I could tell I think because of something in their eyes. They all have kind eyes). I wanted to be a part of it! I wanted to know them, support them, eat the food they put so much work and love into growing! So I made a pact with myself: equipped with a small budget as a freshman in college (so like, super small budget) and a new desire to be a part of something bigger and better for the environment, I would start coming to the farmer's market once a month and buying the fresh produce that I couldn't get in the dining hall. Then as a sophomore, this quickly turned to once-a-week trips to supply my fridge with fresh and local goods. I've become a regular and a self-proclaimed unofficial spokeswoman (see also: "fangirl") for many of the farms I see regularly at the Ann Arbor Farmer's Market and Detroit's Eastern Market (shoutout White Lotus Farms I love you a lot). There is a special sense of security and appreciation knowing exactly where my food is coming from, knowing it isn't traveling very far to get to me, and meeting the people that nurtured it to its full, beautiful potential. This is the ultimate user experience when it comes to grocery shopping. Forget fancy hand-held scanners that you can carry with you through the store so that you don't have to interact with a single soul while picking out food that travelled thousands of miles to be stacked on a shelf, only to see more than 10% of it thrown out and wasted anyway!! Whoa borderline rant, sorry, I'll cut myself off there. What's really important is getting to walk from booth to booth, seeing firsthand the produce that's actually in season (and isn't pumped with chemicals to be sold at any time of the year) and exchanging cash for food, knowing exactly where that food is coming from and where that money is going. There are a lot of reasons why spending some hard-earned cash at the farmer's market (and other local businesses!) should become a part of everyone's routine shopping, and I've tried to synthesize just a few of them below.

1. There's so much pollution that comes from regular grocery products being created, processed, packaged, and shipped across the country to get to your grocery store. While I understand you can't just avoid grocery stores because of this (I'm at Kroger regularly you guys) because many products obviously cannot be found at the farmer's market, pollution through travel and processing could be cut by buying as many local products as is possible (and affordable). Local produce tends to minimize transportation and processing by: traveling less distance, being handled by fewer people and less machinery, and is sold much sooner after the harvest. Talk about a great (aka environmentally friendly) user experience!

2. Buying local also makes your meals more nutritious! The local goods reaching your kitchen faster maximizes freshness, flavor and nutrient retention. Speediness is all a part of that experience, friends! We love to get our food as fast and delicious as possible, and you still can when you shop from within your community! You are getting the most nutrition and taste from buying local products! Yum!

3. It's not as limited as you think! Buying local doesn't mean you need to buy all your produce from your next door neighbor's vegetable garden, providing a little more freedom to that experience. Technically speaking, "local" food can even be statewide. In my case, for example, living in Ann Arbor means that local food is grown and/or processed in Michigan or within 250 miles of AA. I can support farmers all the way Up North and farmers in Detroit all the same! Yay for state-wide community support and a wider range of access to fresh and local goods!

4. It's more sustainable! I know, I know - this buzzword "sustainable" gets tossed around a lot and can sometimes be overused or even abused when talking about hot topics like the environment (and plastic straws, shoutout @Starbucks and other companies for banning those menaces btw woooo). So for some factual info: something is 'sustainable' if it is at least one of the following: third-party certified (fancy term for another accreditation facility that can certify stuff and they basically report to the FDA if things aren't looking so good), local, organic practices, humane treatment of animals, hormone and antibiotic-free, free range poultry and eggs, grass fed or pasture raised meats, and/or sustainable fisheries. If it meets more than just one of these criterion, then BONUS! But just in the way that growing food needs to be maintained, it can be nearly impossible to check off all those boxes! So the standard for sustainable food isn't nearly as impossible as many think.

As you may have learned by this point, this is a freaking soapbox (one of many) that I have and had to cut this blog post down a lot because I could just talk about it for a long long time!! If you have any questions or are wondering about things I shared, feel free to reach out. A lot of my information came from the University of Michigan Planet Blue Ambassador training I went through (highly recommend for umich students who are passionate about the environment) and other research I've done in my free time because I do that for fun. Please also let me know if there's more that I didn't talk about that you find important! I'm always looking to get some big #knowledge and #wisdom dropped on me. Thanks for indulging this passion of mine. I hope you make a trip to your farmer's market soon and thank them for the work they are doing!

Stay cool, support your local farmers, and skip the plastic straw.

All my love and then some,
Dem

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