With the rise of the paddock-to-plate movement, farmers markets have sprung up in almost every small or medium-sized town, bringing with them a weekly dose of locally grown goodness.
There are so many reasons to love your local farmers market – the colour, the characters, the community vibe, the picked-that-morning produce and let's not forget the free-ranging babies happily gumming down on green beans or charming free samples out of Neville the banana guy.
Here are five of the best reasons to shop at your local farmers markets...
1. YOU'RE DOIN' IT FOR THE KIDS
With 40 per cent of children believing money you get from ATMs is 'free', it's no surprise that one in five primary-aged kids struggle to say where fresh food comes from. The Stephanie Alexander Kitchen Garden Foundation also found one in four didn’t know that butter is made from cows' milk, that apples and bananas are grown on trees and potatoes are grown underground. Sheesh!
Beyond teaching kids that money really doesn't grow on trees, farmers markets offer a fantastic learning opportunity about the importance of shopping local to financially support family farms and local growers. Plus they can reduce environmental impact by buying food that didn't have to be transported as far to get to them.
So how do farmers markets teach kids to make healthy food choices? Studies show that the more children know about how food is grown and where it comes from, the more likely they are to learn to prepare it for themselves. Winning!
2. THE FOOD IS FREAKY FRESH
Most of the produce available at your local farmers market is harvested within days or even hours of you buying it – and you can taste it! Because of this, it tends to last longer as it's actually fresh, unlike supermarket produce that has been kept 'alive' in cyrogenic storage for disturbing lengths of time (like Walt Disney's corpse). You know that shiny red apple you bought at the supermarket? Wish it a happy anniversary because there's a good chance it's already one year old!
Extended storage robs food of vitamins and antioxidants, so if you're going to work that hard to get vegies into your fussy eater, you may as well make sure it's actually delivering the benefits.
3. THEY'RE A SOCIAL HUB
Farmers markets are a great place to 'Cheer up. Slow down. Chill out,' as we like to say in Byron Bay (where Love Mae HQ is located). Whether you're a mumma with young kids looking for a free social setting that's full of community, or a grandma who prefers a good coffee to bingo, the markets are the go. There are often craft stations to keep little hands busy and buskers to fill the air with tunes.
4. SEASONAL IS BEST
Offering another great lesson to kids – that you can't always get what you want – a farmers market is the ultimate forum for when it's best to eat certain foods. Out-of-season foods that are artificially available to us often lack flavour (as they were picked before ripe) and can be fibrous or floury in texture.
Eating seasonally is also cheaper as there is likely to be a bounty of what's in season and so prices come down to move it while it's fresh. Check out this great guide to seasonal eating in Australia.
5. YOU GET TO MEET THE GROWERS
You should come to the farmers market prepared to meet some truly passionate producers, as well as some annoyingly healthy-looking food stall owners – we're talking clear eyes, glowy skin and natural fibres. Beyond being living proof of the benefits of a healthy life and fresh food, most are willing to spend the time talking about their process, the food's origins and share recipes and growing tips.