5 Wins Farmers Markets Really Can Offer Your Family
I’ll never forget one particular conversation I had one day I was at my local grocery store when my girl was a baby.
I was like most first-time mamas, I was sleep-deprived, anxious and felt the enormity of being responsible for every activity for the tiny human I was entrusted with. I was waiting on line, and you know that when you have a baby with you in public everyone talks to you!
She was a more seasoned mama and she told me that I should enjoy these days because I only really had about 8 years before my girl would be more interested in her friends than in me, and that she would start testing my boundaries and my patience, like a mini-teenager.
To say I was taken aback would be an understatement. I knew I was clueless at being a mom, but did teenage behaviors really start that young? I comforted myself that I had the better part of 8 years to hold onto this little baby before any of that madness happened.
My girl isn’t yet there in age, and thankfully not acting quite to the degree that the other mom foreshadowed (I know it’s waiting for me though), but one thing I can see clearly is that she definitely seeks out activities with her peers and friends much more than with me. Sniff, sniff.
I noticed this tendency earlier this year when her former love of my kids’ cooking classes turned into “I don’t want to cook today.” So, I found the solution, which is to invite a friend of hers who LOVES cooking to the class. My cooking classes are suddenly more interesting to my girl (#momwin) and I’m happy to include her friends in something they enjoy doing. My girl is like the shoemaker’s daughter who doesn’t want shoes!
With this knowledge in mind, I knew that inviting a friend to go with us to the Chappaqua Farmers’ Market this past Saturday would be much more fun than if she was just with me. (Sniffing again.) Her friend’s presence with us made the whole experience more fun and they enjoyed tasting the samples that were being offered and eating freshly made pizza from a portable pizzeria truck called Dough Nation. As a result. walking around enjoying the healthy foodie vibes was even more fun for me.
Why Go to a Farmers’ Market?
You might be thinking, why would anyone go to a farmers’ market when there are grocery stores….?
You might also be wondering if farmers’ markets are for you...maybe you feel intimidated because everyone seems to know what they’re doing and you’re not so food savvy? Does the thought come to mind that if you don’t consider yourself a tree-hugger or a crunchy mama, it’s not for you?
Here are 5 reasons to answer those very questions.
Win #1: Your Kids Will Taste New Foods
Who can resist snacking on little food morsels with toothpicks just begging to be tasted? I know I can’t resist, and guess who else can’t? Your kids! They are encouraged to taste what the vendors are offering (within reason, obvs) and you know that grazing on little bites of food is how kids roll!
The vendors have a vested interest of course...they know that if the kids taste something they love, we suckers, um, parents are happy to buy it for them. If there is even a flicker of hope that our kids will eat something that doesn’t come out of a box we jump at the chance!
But what’s great about the kids sampling is that they are more likely to eat the new foods they’ve “discovered” because it’s on their own terms. They were the ones who decided to try the sample and no one put it in front of them at the dinner table with silent (or very audible) expectations that they’ll eat. So, it’s definitely a #momwin.
We were beckoned by the lady working the Laurel’s Nut Butter table. She knew just how to get the girls interested! She asked them if they had ever heard of the cereal Cinnamon Toast Crunch, which got their attention right away. When she told them that the almond butter that she had there tasted just like that cereal, they were totally game to try it.
End of the story: we went home with almond butter that they never would have tried had I bought it from the store. That interaction with the vendor and tasting it themselves totally sealed the deal.
Win #2: Your Kids Will See Real Foods in their Natural State
There are different varieties of produce, eggs, cheese, popcorn, pickles, breads and more than what the kids may see at the grocery store. What a cool lesson to see that some chickens lay blue eggs! And how awesome to know that there are many varieties of pickles! Have the kids seen different varieties of carrots? There are white, purple and red colored carrots, too!
When they see these variations at the market, they are more likely to be ok with seeing them on their plate!
It’s good for our kids to know that farmers, bakers, and other food folks (or their representatives at the market) are the ones who prepared or baked or harvested these foods. When we see plastic packages of food at a grocery store we are all so separated from the idea that real food comes from nature. We find ourselves unconsciously believing that we are meant to eat foods that “come from” packages.
Win #3: Get Your Shopping Done and Have Some Fun
We know that it's good to have at least 1 activity on the weekend docket so that the kids don't start climbing the walls (and the furniture). Farmers' Markets are a great place to handle several items on your weekend list!
There are usually lots of families at farmers’ markets who come to enjoy the relaxed environment and foodie fun. It’s fun to meet other families who are taking part in the kids’ events that are offered. There is often live music, and there are cooking demonstrations and craft booths sometimes too!
It’s fun to get your food shopping done and also have built-in fun for the kids! Who doesn’t love running into friends unexpectedly when you’re out and about! Having unplanned and unexpected fun occurrences appeal to the magic and mystery that comes with being a kid.
Win #4: See the People in Your Neighborhood
Mr. Rogers was onto something, my friends. Farmers’ Markets provide a sense of community because it feels good to see friends and neighbors out enjoying the nice weather. When you find a vendor that you like, it’s more likely that you’ll return to market to stock up weekly or monthly. The vendors also become part of your community circle and you come to regard them as neighbors even if they aren’t from your area. It’s no secret that food is the best unifying force of all and we can never have too many friends.
While we were waiting for the made to order pizza that the girls wanted, I saw a lady who was a substitute teacher in my high school, and I also saw a fellow cooking teacher friend from a local cooking studio!
Win #5: Your Kids Taste Food as it Was Meant to Taste
Sometimes we don’t realize the effects of our busy modern lifestyles. When we slow down to shop for food slowly and among neighbors it brings us back to a slower, more connected time. Another effect of our rushed daily lives is that we often rely upon convenience foods that may have lots of unwanted ingredients.
Our children (and we) are so seduced by colorful packaging and the over-seasoned processed foods and many lose their taste for fresh foods. When you bring the kids to a market, they can reconnect with the freshness of seeing carrots and beets with their stalks on, and they will see the naturally bright colors of fresh produce that are often missing from packaged foods.
I know that I was entranced by the smells of the fresh Greek moussaka and spanakopita (spinach pie) that wafted by when we were walking around. I would definitely have stood on the Mrs. D's Mediterranean Delights’ long line if I didn’t have my 2 buds with me
Farmers’ Markets Have Higher Prices than Grocery Stores
There are indeed many items with higher prices than in grocery stores. I think we are all clear that the grocery store receives massive bulk shipments and most of the produce we eat has to travel many many miles to get to us. The benefits of buying produce and perishable foods at a farmers’ market is that the food doesn’t have such a long travel itinerary.
The farmers bring the food to the market. You buy it. You take it home. So it’s fresher. What that means for your family is that there are more nutrients and keeps your family running and away from doctors’ offices and urgent care facilities.
When you buy food at the markets you also have the benefit of speaking to someone about how to best store them and cook them, too. Try asking one of your local grocery store produce employees, and see what happens….
Is All of the Food at the Farmers’ Markets Fancy Food?
In case you are someone who feels intimidated by farmers’ markets because you think there will be only fancy food, I can assure you that you will be able to find foods that you like. There are vendors who sell both prepared, ready-to-serve hot food as well as produce.
You can certainly find more eclectic foods and beverages, but you will also be pleased to find lovely baked goods like muffins, croissants and bread. You can choose to be adventurous and try that artisan salami that is being sampled and take a piece of bread that is being offered with cold-pressed olive oil.
Life is meant to be savored and experienced. No one says that you have to forego your local Shoprite, Trader Joe's and Stop & Shop and do all your shopping at local markets. There’s room for everything! Maybe some items you’d like to try purchasing at the markets and some items you’d prefer to get at the store. That’s how I feel!
I’d love to hear about what you like to do, taste and enjoy at Farmers’ Markets. Leave a comment below!