Farmers markets offer a direct experience of food and community. Author Michael Pollan and chef Bryant Terry celebrate the many benefits of shopping at farmers markets.
What excites you about farmers markets?
Michael Pollan: We’ve had an explosion of farmers markets. Their number has doubled in the past 10 years. There are almost 7,000 farmers markets around the country, the fastest growing segment of the food marketplace. By shopping at a farmers market, you support local agriculture, which has a great many benefits. You keep farmers in your community. You keep land from being sprawled with houses and shopping centers. You have the experience of shopping in the farmers market, which is the new public square. You support a lot of values when you shop at the farmers market.
Bryant Terry: What makes the farmers market such a special place is that you’re actually creating community around food. Consumers purchase their food directly from the producers, and they build relationships with the people who provide them with their food. It’s exciting for me to bring people to farmers markets who haven’t been before and to give them the opportunity to taste many of the fruits and vegetables that the producers are growing. Farmers want us to sample their food before buying. They’re confident that it’s going to be delicious because it’s freshly picked.
What’s the difference between shopping at a farmers market and shopping at a supermarket?
Michael Pollan: Farmers markets are a very important part of building an alternative food chain. You’re now eating in a different way. You’re eating less processed food. There is no high fructose corn syrup in the farmers market. There are no monoglycerides, no triglycerides. None of those additives are present in fresh, seasonal food. When you start cooking food, as opposed to buying it precooked or processed, both you and the farmer benefit, as a matter of health.
Bryant Terry: When you go to the farmer farmers market and you give a farmer your dollar, you’re ensuring that he or she gets 80 to 90 cents on every dollar you spend. You are helping to strengthen the local economy and support farmers and food artisans. The number of farmers is dwindling every year. It’s up to us as consumers to ensure that they can continue to work the land and provide us with the fresh, healthy, local food we all deserve.
How do farmers markets build community?
Michael Pollan: A farmers market is kind of like a public square, and there is a nice social energy. There was a study done a couple years ago that found that people have 10 times as many conversations at the farmers market than they do at the supermarket.
Farmer’s markets are more than places to buy food. They’re important parts of the community. I meet my neighbors there, and I meet farmers. Since most of us are urbanites, we have very little contact with the countryside, but the countryside always supports the cities. Cities cannot survive without rural areas to feed them. At the farmers market, city meets country. People learn about where their food comes from and the people who grow it.More: Bryant Terry, Changing the Menu, Creating Community, Farm to Fork, Food and Community, Food Culture, Local Food, Michael Pollan, Shopping Wisely, Sustainable Farming