In the spirit of the Love Your Farmers Market Contest, sponsored by Care2 and LocalHarvest, let’s talk about why we love our farmers market. I know I love fresh produce simply because it’s delicious. But there are more benefits to hitting up the local farmers market than meets the taste buds.
As Michael Shuman explains in Going Local and The Small-Mart Revolution, we need to localize our economy, meaning we can save a lot of money if we buy more from inside our community instead of from big corporations. Here’s an example: If you spend $100 at Borders, $13 ends up in the local economy. If you spend $100 at a local bookstore, $45 ends up in the local economy. This is because the local bookstore has local management, local accountants, local lawyers, local advertising and local profits, so there are three times as many jobs, tax collections, etc.
As our world has become more globalized, local food systems have been compromised. Shuman explains that we have neglected the distribution points that connected farmers with local markets. 100 years ago, if you spent a dollar on food at a market, about 40 cents would go to the farmer and the rest would go to inputs and marketing. Today, when you spent a dollar, about 7 cents goes to the farmer and 71 cents goes to marketing, which includes refrigeration, packaging, advertising, distributors, etc. But economics are increasingly favoring local foods- even tiny scale farming can deliver cheaper food because they save most of the 71 cents that would go to marketing (not to mention that it saves a lot of energy by cutting out transportation for distribution). This is where community-supported agriculture and farmers markets come into play.
So go to your farmers market and support your local community! If you are interested in making a bigger difference, think about using a local landlord and a local bank. The key is to build networks of local businesses that can compete with big corporations like Wal-Mart. But we have to start somewhere, so why not start with the produce at your local farmers market?