The Unexpected Benefit of Farmers’ Markets: Happiness
While many Americans think it’s too expensive or inconvenient to purchase locally grown food, buying products at farmers’ markets offer a surprising benefit to its buyers—happiness.
We’re not talking a momentary jolt of joy here.
Think long-term, fulfilled kind of happy. The type that reminds you that life has purpose and people can be good. Shoppers get overwhelmed with choices in big brand stores. According to Harvard Psychologist Dan Gilbert, too many options to choose from erodes your happiness and can lead to depression. Alternatively, the simplistic and personal approach to farmers’ markets and the fresh, outdoor atmosphere can increase happiness and reduce stress. This means that buying recently harvested, nutrient-rich food can help you mentally and emotionally as much as it does physically.
Worried you won’t find anything on your grocery list in the vendor stalls? Going to a weekend produce stand gives you an opportunity to learn about unique products and try new recipes. Consider them your friendly personal nutritionists and cooking mentors!
Reduce Waste in Your Community
Another way that farmers markets impact consumer’s joy is contributing to the wellness of their community. Zero in on the positive impact your spending can have on your community. A major benefit to support nearby farmers is the reduction of food waste. Literally, tons of sustenance, ruined on the way to or stocked at major grocery stores, are thrown out. The USDA approximates that supermarkets trash about $15 billion worth of unsellable produce each year. On the other hand, growers use all their food waste back on the farm.
“Nothing goes to waste,” Jean Torok of Son Mountain Ranch in Athol, Idaho said in a recent interview I had with her. “Food that does not sell… our family eats over the weekend, or the animals eat it.” She said they compost their own animal manure. It’s tested by a soil test lab and passed with 100 percent germination rate. Then they can sell it to other local agriculturalists. They are not only eliminating food waste; they’re using the organic matter to grow more groceries, or someone else is.
Support the Local Economy
Most people agree that helping others is a major part of feeling positive about their lives. When you buy local products, you’re sustaining your town’s or county’s economy. Resident farms have the mentality of supporting local, too. Torok confirmed this as she explained the operation of her farm. They pay their six percent taxes and buy animal feed, seeds, and fruit trees from regional nurseries or other farmers.
These benefits stretch nationwide. One study completed by Michigan State University found that in West Michigan, for every 100 dollars spent at a local business, 73 dollars stayed within the local economy. That means a major financial impact on schools, libraries, parks, and infrastructure. Shopping local isn’t only about improving your health and well-being. It nurtures your neighborhoods, cities, and communities.
Eat Same-Day Fresh, Be Well
Most of us know eating produce is good for us. Buying local fresh produce can increase nutrition intake. The vitamins, minerals, and water content are destroyed during travel and storage of the produce. “… Much of what you find at stores have been transported 1,200 miles, on average. Produce at farmers markets is often picked ripe and sold within a day. That translates into a fresher, more nutritious food because the vitamins and other nutrients haven’t had time to break down,” says Lauri Wright, Ph.D., R.D.N, assistant professor of Nutrition at the University of North Florida. One study at the University of California Davis found that, for example, most vegetables lose an average of 30 percent of their vitamin C within seven days of harvest. In that same study, spinach lost almost 90 percent of the same vitamin.
Now consider the reverse of these statistics. Those that eat produce within the 48 hours of harvest will consume that same percentage of the nutrients. According to the U.S. Department of Health, the average American spends roughly 12.8 billion dollars out-of-pocket on dietary supplements and 54.1 billion dollars out-of-pocket on prescription drugs. Imagine how much less they’d spend if they ate homegrown food sources! Consuming more healthy food should make shoppers reconsider how they shop.
While convenience and cost mean so much to U.S. citizens, it’s important to consider the effect of purchasing locally sourced food can have on our health, our community and our overall sense of well-being. It’s no wonder farmers markets are becoming more prevalent throughout the United States. The USDA has a location page to help people find nearby farmers markets. Autumn has fallen, and you can take advantage of the benefits of plump pumpkins, delicious apples and pears, and planning a healthy menu in a fun environment. You’ll be happy you did!