Does Buying From Your Local Farmers Market Help the Environment?
I recently posted on FaceBook how much I enjoy shopping at our local farmers market. It's a fun atmosphere, with live music, colorful produce, jams and jellies, natural soaps and more.
Sometimes I run into friends, and get a chance to connect with others in the community.
I also like the idea of supporting our local farmers, and knowing my food came from a wholesome source. The food is fresher and seems tastier. And the prices are great too!
But can shopping at the farmers market help the environment? Certainly the food has traveled less to get there. Statistics show that most food travels an average of 1,300 miles over a week or more. Buying at the local green market means less fuel is burned and less pollutants disbursed by shipping from far-away places.
Also, most of the local farmers that bring food to the green markets plant a variety of foods, which protects genetic diversity. In contrast, many of the large commercial agribusinesses grow only high-yield hybrid plants that grow faster and can withstand long transport times.
Locally grown food reduces packaging waste as well. Reducing styrofoam trays and plastic wrap is another good reason to frequent the farmers' market.
The Farmers Market Coalition notes that sustainability is an overarching theme, whereby the farmers provide local, healthy environmentally friendly food--while the community purchases the food and provides the money to sustain the farmers.
So, certainly on the surface, it appears that by visiting (and buying) at the local green market, we can help the environment.
However, it's just not that easy to determine if shopping at the farmers market really helps the environment. A State of the Planet blog notes that there are other, more complicated factors involved in food's environmental impact. Agricultural systems are very complex--and effects on the environment depend more on how the food is grown, the type of food (meat/dairy vs. plant-based foods), types of farm machinery, storage facilities, and a multitude of other variables.
That being said, the idea of helping our local farmers while eating fresh and healthy, and improving the environment just a little bit--makes it worthwhile for me to shop at the green market.