We are hanging on to the last days of summer and those of us who live in regions with distinct seasons are trying to max out on outdoor activities and fresh local produce. Some folks may grow their own, but most of us (yours truly included) rely on the seasonal stock that we find at the local farmers market. And those markets are amazing—you’ll find an array of produce as well as, baked goods beverages, cheese, meat, and prepared foods. The farmers market makes a good case for my healthy eating philosophy “try everything but in moderation, there is not one food that is totally good or totally bad for you.”

Farmers markets have several benefits—obvious and not so obvious. The obvious advantage of the markets is that they are a buffet for the senses—visually stimulating, tempting foods to taste, textures to touch, along with the aromas of ripe fruit or freshly prepared foods to grab and go. At the market you’ll smell the fragrant sweetness of ripe peaches as you handle the fuzz-brushed fruit. Research suggests that multisensory stimulation can help keep the brain young.

The markets have social and psychological benefits. They provide opportunities to meet fellow shoppers and members of the community. While shopping you can meet vendors and build a rapport with them as you learn more about their products. Farmers markets can create common ground helping to bring together diverse groups to discuss or solve challenges affecting the community. There is a branch of psychology, known as community psychology which has developed around the idea that a sense of community is important for personal well-being. Connecting with those around you can promote a sense of belonging, building a feeling that you matter, and a healthy trust in your neighbors.

One of the biggest benefits of the farmers markets is the chance to create a space for fresh fruits and vegetables within communities considered “food deserts,” where options for fresh ingredients are non-existent or extremely limited. I’m encouraging folks to make healthy choices every day, but in neighborhoods where people have few grocers carrying produce, it can be difficult to put the fresh “5-a-day” fruits or veggies on the family menu. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) advises that a diet rich in variety and colorful fruits and vegetables can aid in maintaining good health and reduces the risk of chronic diseases such as heart disease, high-blood pressure, diabetes and obesity. Let’s face it –it is more enjoyable to eat good things for you than to take a pill for an ailment.

The market is also an excellent platform to educate shoppers of all ages about the foods they eat, where it comes from and how to prepare it. You may have seen or heard about some of the more exotic choices yet you’ve been reluctant to try them. The mart gives you a chance to ask questions of the grower and sometimes sample. The farmers market is also a terrific open-air classroom for kids. They are instinctively curious and often ask their big questions about the foods on display. It is also good for them to see and learn about food in its natural state—not cookie-cutter perfect, totally clean and cellophane wrapped. Learning about the food and talking to the farmer can help make kids more open to eating vegetables.

Now you may be curious about how local fits in to this topic. Right now there is not a standard definition of local; most market managers consider products local when they are grown and produced within a 150-to 200-mile radius of where they are sold. By being closer to the buyer, fresh from the farm ingredients are allowed to mature to peak ripeness and flavor on the plant. The food can go from plant to plate within 24 hours. Freshly picked is more flavorful and higher in nutrients.

Shopping farmers markets is good for the local community; they’re creating a destination where people are open to shopping and willing to spend. These markets support family farms and small growers who are able to deliver goods at peak flavor. It’s a win-win all around—head out with your market basket and make sure you get the most out of the season.

Take Away—Farmers markets are good for you; they feed the mind, body and spirit. Take advantage and value your local market throughout the farmers market season.

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We are hanging on to the last days of summer and those of us who live in regions with distinct seasons are trying to max out on outdoor activities and fresh local produce. Some folks may grow their own, but most of us (yours truly included) rely on the...