It's 9 a.m. on a Saturday and my mom comes in to wake me up. Even though I was up until 2 a.m. the night before (I'm secretly an owl), I don't mind. I get out of bed, grab a bite to eat, get myself together, and off we go. Where are we heading you ask? To the farmers market of course!
This has pretty much been my life for the last 7+ weeks. And guess what? I love it. Out of all the days in the week, Saturday is the one I look forward to the most. No matter what I'm doing that day, there's always one constant: I'm going to the market. Even if it's raining, the wind is howling, and the sun isn't shining, I'm going. Something about having this one constant in my life really motivates me. Maybe it's because I'm obsessed with plants. Or maybe it's because I love supporting local businesses. Hey, maybe it's both.
Either way, I've learned a lot over the course of 7+ weeks of religious farmers market attendance, and now I want to share it with you. Hopefully, this inspires you to go to your own local farmers market in return.
It all started thanks to one thing: My compost pail
So, I kind of impulse bought a compost pail, but hear me out on this. Americans throw away nearly half their food every year, waste that’s worth roughly $165 billion annually. Isn't that insane? So, to make up for that, I thought it would be a really cool idea to start collecting my food scraps and donating them to the farmers market. I double-checked online beforehand of course, but the farmers market closest to my home has a food scrap drop off. So, in came the compost pail. I live in an apartment (with my parents), so actually composting inside it was a big no-no. The good thing is, the pail itself is made from stainless steel, has a handle, and a filter which prevents odor. I simply dump my food scraps in there and wait for it to fill up. Funniest part is, when I first started this experiment, I hadn't expected my mom to get involved. But she did. She started adding her own food scraps to it, and soon enough my dad did too. Naturally, you can guess the pail filled up pretty quickly. So, by Saturday, it was certainly ready to be emptied out! Thanks to this pail, I had a solid excuse to go to the farmers market every weekend, and do some good for the environment at the same time. After all, did you know food (even food scraps) that head to the landfill contribute to methane gas? It's true.
There's no time like mother and daughter time
I lead a pretty busy life: Blogging and freelancing take up most of my time. But when I'm not writing, I like to wind down by spending some time with my boyfriend and my friends. Usually, as soon as 6 o'clock comes, I'm out the door, going to meet up with someone. As you can imagine, this leaves very little time for mother and daughter bonding. So little, in fact, that my mom began to constantly nag me about it and say "I never see you!" Well, all that changed when we started going to the farmers market every Saturday. It gave me a great excuse to hang out with my mom and spend some one-on-one time with her. And let me tell you something, she loves it. The drive there we talk up a storm or jam out to some tunes. Sometimes we'll grab a bite to eat (usually a salad) afterwards. The ride home, she puts up with me talking about how environmentally friendly we're being by buying local produce. When we get home, we wash off some cherries (or strawberries) and nosh on them until our mouths hurt from smiling at their deliciousness. Which leads me to say...
Once you eat their food, you can never go back
Oh gosh, where do I even start? Have you ever tried heirloom tomatoes? What about fresh picked cherries? They have that and so much more at the farmers market, and the taste is incomprehensible. Since everything offered is completely seasonal, you can taste the freshness. It's unlike anything you'll ever find at the grocery store, for sure. And they always have such unique things there too! Gooseberries, currants, wacky shaped veggies -- you name it! This amount of diversity is never seen in conventional supermarkets. Now, every time I eat a cherry or a tomato from anywhere else, I can't help but think how much better the ones I get every Saturday are. Literally, going to the farmers market has helped my mom cut back on grocery shopping (and saved her a buck or two in the process). Not to mention even my mom and dad taste the difference in their food, so we're all hooked. Maybe even addicted. But hey, I'd rather be addicted to that than to sugary, over-processed foods.
Dumping my food scraps has never been so fun
I literally take joy in walking over to a bin designated for food scraps and just chucking all of mine into it. It's great! The guy who runs the food scrap drop off knows my mom and me by face now. He's always so kind and welcoming and greets us every time. Sometimes we get into full-on conversations with the guy. He even gave us a reusable bag the first time we showed up there (and I've been using it to this day, and will continue to do so). He has a bin just for food scraps and also a few smaller bins where he keeps the actual compost. These are small enough that they sit on his table, and he said he uses worms to help speed up the process. He doesn't just take food scraps either: He'll also take paper and cardboard (which is great because after we dump our stuff out, we use a paper towel to wipe the pail clean). We then just chuck the paper towel into the compost bin. Perfection! No waste, whatsoever. Sometimes he even offers to clean out my pail for me, which is always nice. I wish there were more places in my neighborhood that had food scrap drop off centers like this!
Nothing beats reusable bags and package-free food
Whenever I'm in the grocery store, people look at me funny when I ask for my stuff to be packed in a reusable bag. Guess helping the environment is weird? Not at the farmers market. In fact, they actually encourage it and always ask if I have my own bag. Of course, I say yes. I usually bring three reusable bags with me, and that does a great job of holding all the produce we buy in it nice and securely. Another great thing? No plastic packaging on fresh produce. It's pretty much naked, and plops perfectly into my bags. Things like strawberries, blueberries, and cherries are a little different though: They come in reusable little cartons that you can keep, or give back the next week you go to the market. They secure them with these mesh covers too, which are also reusable. We just take everything back the next weekend, so they can keep reusing them and we don't contribute to any waste. How cool is that? No plastic packaging here. Take that, pollution.
In the end, it's about people, not just produce
Honestly, one of the best parts of going to the farmers market is seeing all the people. I love watching everyone buy things and get excited over the same things I'm excited over. Generally speaking, there's so much more enthusiasm at a farmers market than at a grocery store. No one looks gloomy, everyone's talking, and sometimes there's even live music there. It's truly a social gathering of the community, and I love how it makes us all come together. Maybe it's because the people at the stands actually had a hand in growing the produce. They must be proud of their work (I know I would be!). My mom says my joy for this place is contagious and that she loves coming with me, so I'm happy to make her happy (and vice versa). Not to mention it's fantastic to see so many friendly faces and get to know the farmers who sell the stuff. Half the time, you don't even know who picked your food and brought it to the grocery store. Not at a farmers market. There's a face behind that produce, and it's smiling at me over the counter. So yeah, people matter too. In fact, they're the ones who make this fantastic place even possible.