In recent years, farmers markets have exploded across the nation reaching nearly 8,500 locations. In Maryland, you can visit about 125 farmers markets sprinkled across the state that are open for business with the freshest choices.
Even during the pandemic, the Maryland Department of Agriculture considers farmers markets an essential business and an important source of food for many Marylanders. “Farmers markets play a critical role in providing fresh, nutritious and locally produced food products to customers across the state — especially those Marylanders who live in food deserts and those who rely on SNAP benefits to access fresh produce,” said Secretary of Agriculture Joe Bartenfelder.
Here are the top three reasons you should buy from your local Maryland farmers market.
Straight from the farm. At a farmers market, you can find a plethora of farm fresh goods. For most people fruits and vegetables are what come to mind, but you can also find meats, eggs and dairy, even ice cream and cut flowers and herbs. A main benefit from buying at a local farmers market is to get fresher goods from your own neighbors! “It’s important to know where your food comes from and support local food suppliers,” says Kate Dallam, Broom’s Bloom Dairy in Bel Air. For example, fruits and vegetables you find at the grocery store are often several days old before they even reach the produce aisle. Produce from your local farmers markets is generally picked within 24 hours of hitting the market — it’s pretty much as fresh as you can get outside of growing it yourself. Check out some delicious farmers market recipes from the University of Maryland Baltimore.
Good for the economy and the community. Most farmers market produce is grown within 100 miles of the market and helps stimulate small businesses and local economies. Farmers are likely to spend money they make from the market in the local economy. In fact, growers selling locally return three times more revenue to the community than do chain food stores. One Maryland study showed that local farmers’ markets generated $51 million dollars in sales, with more than 2.3 million consumers visiting farmers markets. They are also a source of local jobs. On average, farmers markets create 13 full-time jobs for every $1 million of revenue.
Even better? They also help build community. “I believe that nothing beats talking to the person that makes the food,” Kate says. “Farmers markets give farmers a chance to talk directly to consumers. It’s that face-to-face interaction that builds trust. We learn from each other — what they care about and what they can learn from us.”
Support local family farms. It’s no secret that over the years local family farms have decreased in numbers. High operation costs and stiff competition from corporation-run farms that produce huge amounts of produce for extremely cheap are forcing smaller farms to retire. By shopping at your local farmers market, you’re providing Maryland farmers with the capital, support and encouragement they need to keep operating. “At a farmers market, you deal directly with the farmer and buy American,” Kate says. “There are a lot of benefits of the money going back to farmer and investing in the community.”
Read more about Kate and Broom’s Bloom Dairy (farm fresh ice cream!) in our next blog.