Farmer’s Markets Vs. Farms: Which is better for you?

The Awesome Mitten- Farmers Markets Vs. Farms
Photo courtesy of mlive.com

One of the best parts about living in a state as abundant as Michigan is that, for much of the year, we have our selection of the freshest, locally grown produce. Across the state health food enthusiasts and local food connoisseurs alike flock to farmer’s markets to get their share of leafy, fruity goodness.

I don’t know about you, but allow me to recreate every visit I’ve ever taken to a farmer’s market:

“Holy green juice… That’s a lot of veggies!”
“Which is better, red kale or regular kale? Better grab both.”
“It’s all organic! I love farms! This is Michigan at it’s finest!”
“$2 for a pound of cherries? I would be cheating everyone involved if I walk out of here with any less than 3 pounds.”
“How did I spend that much, exactly? Also, I’m going to need a bigger fridge.”

Now, it is very possible that the underlying issue here is my general lack of self control (especially when it comes to nutrient-packed, organic produce). Regardless, my mission in finding a way to mix convenience and health has brought me to an even better option: community supported agriculture.

The Awesome Mitten- Farmers Markets Vs. Farms
Photo courtesy of healthyfarmplateyou.com

Community Supported Agriculture, also known as CSA, focuses on connecting the food consumer to the food producer while sharing some of the risk associated with running a farm. Unfortunately, even as the local food movement continues to grow, many family farms struggle to survive. Farmers markets help for a portion of the summer, but even so, the farmers must focus their much-needed attention during peak growing months on marketing their food supply.

Essentially, participating in a CSA means taking on a share of a local farm, which provides stable income to the farm and months of assured produce for you! With your share, you will receive (either by delivery or from a nearby pick-up location) a produce basket weekly or every two weeks from May-October. Share options range from $150-$500, so there is an option for every budget and level of consumption. Some farms even have options including farm-raised meats, eggs, and dairy products.

As an extra bonus, almost all CSAs use organic farming methods. Because there is no need to utilize extra resources for transporting and selling the food, CSAs are able to self-sustain on a much smaller scale, making them more energy efficient than their modern agricultural counterparts.

A CSA might be right for you if you frequent farmer’s markets or spend a large portion of your budget on organic produce at the grocery store, if supporting local farms is important to you, and if you are open to trying new fruits and vegetables you may not have seen before. Because your share of the goods is based on what is in abundance that week, each bag is like a game of veggie roulette: don’t be alarmed if you find a few surprises mixed in with your strawberries. In fact, some farms even include their own cheeses, jams, or other farm goodies in the mix!

The Awesome Mitten- Farmers Markets Vs. Farms
Photo courtesy of csafarms.org

This year, support Michigan agriculture and enjoy a wealth of healthy culinary options delivered to your doorstep. Visit www.csafarms.org to find a CSA near you!

Allison Ziraldo, Health & Wellness Columnist

Tagged , , , , , , .

Thanks primarily to long marathons of the Food Network (shout out to Alton Brown!) and many failed kitchen experiments, I have come to appreciate the ever-important role of food and fitness in a healthy a lifestyle. My view? It doesn't make you an elitist to be educated about what you put in your body. There is no rule book that says you have to become a vegan overnight, or cut out gluten entirely, or start wearing a beret and shopping solely at fair-trade markets. You can still go out with friends, shop at Meijer, and keep quick, easy food on hand. You're in a hurry, you're on a budget... I get it. But you CAN make just a few small changes and lose weight, prevent disease, and have more energy. I'm here to prove it. Join me on my ever-growing quest to find the most delicious, nutritious food and learn from the people who grow it, sell it, and cook it- right here in our own backyard.