Our friends at Ethical.net share what to look for in local food and drink in their guide to farmers’ market shopping, plus how else to access sustainable produce from local producers.
What to look for in local food and drink
When choosing food and drink or other items from a farmers’ market, there are a lot of considerations. You may be used to selecting what you buy largely on the basis of price, but when shopping carefully and sustainably, other elements come into play.
As mentioned above, the most affordable farmers’ market goods are the unprocessed, fresh items. Firstly, try to ensure that your choices are fresh, local, sustainably produced, and, ideally, organic.
Fresh fruit and vegetables at a farmers’ market are often rather different to those in supermarkets: they may be covered in dirt, or have less homogenous appearances. But don’t be put off; as long as they look healthy, with no rot or disease, they will be wonderful. Often, they will have far more flavour than supermarkets’ bland and frequently non-organic produce – a reminder that ‘perfection’ doesn’t necessarily denote quality. Some fruit and vegetables are tastier and more nutritious in spite of their blemishes.
A major element of shopping at farmers’ markets is speaking to growers and producers. The more you interact with stallholders, the more you will see the benefits of what they do, and want to be even a small part of it.
How else to access sustainable produce from local producers
Farmers’ markets are wonderful – but they are not available every day. Fortunately, a number of other options allow access to sustainable produce from local producers
The first potential alternative is to visit a permanent farm shop; if the farmer doesn’t come to you, you can go to them.
Farm shops are usually located on or very close to the farms themselves. If you live in a city, you may have to travel a little distance out of it to reach a farm shop, but when you do, you will often find many of the same products as at a farmers’ market.
Farmers often set up farm shops in order to sell directly to customers year round without worries about distribution, and without having to wait for market day to come around. Some farm shops also have a café or even a restaurant attached, where produce and products from the farm can be enjoyed.
To find farm shops close to you, check out these links:
Pick-your-own and farm stands
A growing number of farms without shops on the premises instead offer visitors the chance to pick up produce from a farm stand, or even to pick their own.
Farm stands are often located at a car park or parking area by the side of a road, and frequently take payment through money deposited in honesty boxes. Pick-your-own farms and orchards allow you to harvest your own produce from the ground or off the living plant. Picking your own can sometimes be a little cheaper than buying the same produce from a market or farm shop – and you can not only see exactly where the produce comes from, but also have an enjoyably fun day out.
Here is a link to a number of UK farm stands and pick-your-own sites: Farm Stands and Pick Your Own Listings
Local food hubs
The concept of local food hubs is an important one for improving the sustainability of current food systems. Farmers’ markets and farm shops can be food hubs, but there are also increasingly a range of other types.
Food hubs are entities that link growers and producers with consumers, by gathering growers’ food and distributing it either to commercial customers or directly to consumers. They often focus on helping small-scale growers and producers find markets, and fill gaps in local food infrastructure, making it easier for communities to find sustainable local produce.
Different types of ethical food hub include:
- Social supermarkets or co-op grocery stores.
- Business development support facilities: incubators for food and drink entrepreneurs.
- Educational facilities teaching people about food, growing, and cooking.
- Sites for the collection and distribution of food aid
- Spaces for community food engagement, such as community larders, community cafes, or spaces for communal eating and shared meals made with local food.
All sorts of different food hubs could help you get your hands on fresh, local, sustainable food, and to contribute to a better and more ethical food future.
Veg box deliveries
Perhaps the easiest way of all to purchase fresh, local, seasonal, organic produce is to have it delivered to your door. A number of farms around the UK offer this service, with some even offering nationwide delivery of not only fresh fruits and vegetables but also often organic meat, fish, and dairy, and artisan breads. Here are a few nationwide examples:
- Riverford Organic Farmers
- The Nutritional Organic Food Co.
- Macleod Organics
- Eversfield Organic
- Abel & Cole (England and Wales only)
You may also find veg box producers operating in your specific local area. Choosing a veg box delivery from a farm as close to home as possible is a great way to eat more sustainably.
To find a nearby organic veg box delivery scheme, choose the closest from this list of providers on the Soil Association website.
Eating fresh, local, organic food is easier and more affordable than you might imagine. So before your next supermarket visit, seek out other options such as farmers’ markets, farm shops, or other farm outlets, food hubs, or veg boxes. Think about making a more sustainable choice.
Read Part 1 here and Part 2 here. Find the original post by Elizabeth Waddington on the Ethical.net blog. Main image by Markus Spiske on Unsplash. Learn more about farmers’ markets and direct farm sales here.
About the author
Ethical.net is a collaborative platform for discovering and sharing ethical alternatives, whether purchasing from a social enterprise, thrift shopping, or learning how to fix your old phone instead of buying a new one. They aim to make ethical the new normal.
The views expressed in our blog are those of the author and not necessarily lowimpact.org's