This post originally ran in Macaroni Kid.
Chances are you’ve shopped at a farmers market and maybe even have a regular one in your neighborhood that you visit every week. In addition to offering access to fresh produce and locally prepared foods, farmers markets are also great opportunities to help kids learn about food and food values.
Fresh and Sustainable
Because farmers markets offer direct access to foods grown or prepared by local farmers and vendors, it means that the products are fresh—picked or made that week—and haven’t sat on a truck or in a warehouse or had to travel hundreds or sometimes thousands of miles to be there.
Produce from farmers markets lasts longer after we buy it, which reduces food waste. And it is better for our environment, reducing pollution from trucks. Finally, a diverse food system is a safer food system—supporting local farmers and producers helps keep them around as an important and resilient source of regional foods when centralized supply chains might have problems.
Different Seasons, Different Foods
We've gotten used to being able to buy any type of food at any time regardless of the season. Nothing against large commercial grocery stores, but the seasonality of farmers markets allows us to focus on the rhythm of the growing season and what is most plentiful at any particular time.
For example, asparagus in the early season, tomatoes and strawberries in the middle, and squash in the fall. Kids can be very picky when it comes to new foods. But bringing your kids to talk with farmers about what’s in season and how to prepare it can make for a special adventure or "project" to introduce some new and nutritious items to your family.
Taste the Difference
Besides providing essential nutrients and calories, our relationship with food should also bring us joy. When you buy fruits and vegetables directly from local farmers, they’re not only fresher than what we often find at traditional grocery stores, but the farmers clearly take pride in bringing the tastiest varieties for families to enjoy.
Non-produce items are also amazingly tastier, including meats sourced from local farms and cheeses prepared by local artisans. Even pasta, bakery items, and chocolates at farmers markets have a taste that can’t be beat. Give it a try and help show kids that our relationship with food can be so much deeper and enjoyable when it tastes good.
In short, farmers markets are great places to pick up amazing foods, but also ideal opportunities to talk with kids about food concepts such as nutrition and sustainability.
As a new cooperatively-owned grocery store coming to Chicago’s Uptown neighborhood, we at Chicago Market launched the Uptown Farmers Market in 2021 and are now in our second year. Our goal is to build a year-round, full-service grocery store that reflects the values of localness, sustainability, and transparency that make farmers markets so special.
Come by and see us at the Uptown Farmers Market on Wednesdays or check out the City of Chicago’s farmers market directory for others near you.
For more information about the Uptown Farmers Market, visit our webpage or join us every Wednesday from 2:30–7:00pm at Wilson & Broadway in Chicago. Learn more about Chicago Market here: https://www.chicagomarket.coop. Or email us at [email protected].