Words Liz French, Images Brydie Thompson
Eating is a pleasure and shopping for food should be too. When rising prices and supermarket monopolies dim your enthusiasm, the Tauranga Farmers Market can inspire you again.
Spring is the most prolific season at the farmers market. As Trixie, the market manager, points out, “Growth starts four weeks after the shortest day to deliver the best choice of produce from our market stall holders during spring.”
Before food from the globe was available globally (and at what cost to the planet and our overall health?) our diets were dictated by what was available locally and now. The farmers market is the ideal place to be reminded of the value in buying fresh seasonal food, of adapting what we eat to the seasons, with the increased appreciation that comes from the taste of freshly picked vegetables, berries and fruit consumed at their natural maturity.
The produce you buy at the market has usually been picked fresh this morning or yesterday. It hasn’t been sitting in a cool store. Very often it is cheaper and/or larger than the mass- produced equivalent. Almost without fail it is more nutrient dense and thus better for you and your family. It lasts longer and you have less waste.
Buying unprocessed food out of season is expensive. Buying fresh seasonal produce is value. Last year Farmers’ Markets New Zealand had markets do a survey between product prices on the same day at the market and at the supermarket. Across the board the farmers markets nationally were cheaper – not by masses of dollars but still cheaper.
Local Lightens Footprint
The local focus that personifies Farmers’ Markets New Zealand member markets ensures that your food has not travelled miles in a plane, on a ship or truck. It has come from within our greater region. The people manning the stand are usually the people who grew the produce or are employed by them. They have a direct vested interest in the food they grow and in the people who buy and enjoy it. You have the satisfaction of knowing it was in the ground, or on the stalk, or in the hen, not far away yesterday!
Enjoy Social Connection
You can’t talk to a supermarket display (unless it’s an under the breath curse!), but you can talk to the grower at the market, learn about the produce, maybe try something new as a result. Farmers market stall holders love to hear from their customers and may even tweak their produce or sizes, or even prices, as a result of your input. And often a stall holder will throw that something extra in with your purchase. If it feels a bit like shopping in a European village market, that’s because it is.
Add the social interaction with friends and fellow shoppers enjoying the leisurely Saturday morning outing, and the overall feel-good factor the market engenders, and you have an experience with value beyond price.