So, what’s the big deal about farm to table? Ok, sit down, this is a bit complicated. Farm to table is about fresh, quality ingredients that are locally sourced.
But can’t you buy the same thing at the grocery store? The answer to that question is simple: No.
Grocery stores are concerned with shelf life, and most require two weeks. That means that produce must be harvested early, and without those last few days in the sun shine, veggies do not develop the favors just off the vine has. The farmer’s market is definitely the best place to buy fresh fruits and vegetables. Don’t get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with what you buy at the grocery, it will just not be as fresh and flavorful.
Most grocery stores have a check list of requirements that they want for each fruit and vegetable. They might want a certain color, or size, or even variety. Unfortunately, there is no requirement for flavor. That’s why those tomatoes that you bought because they looked perfect, bright red, perfectly round, but without much flavor.
Yes, the farmer’s market is not going to have half what you might find at the grocery, that’s to be expected. Remember, its seasonal, just like in the old days, when what you could buy had to be in season. Don’t look for fresh tomatoes in the winter. And what you are going to be for sale was not trucked hundreds or even thousand of miles, so there is even an environmental consideration. What the farmer is selling at the market was most likely picked that morning or the day before. That’s fresh.
Buying at the farmers market supports the local economy, and if you have ever been self-employed, you know what a challenge that can be, running a small farm is even harder. There are more and more small farms in Mississippi, and they need all the help they can get. It is a niche market, and it does more often than not cost more, but you can be sure that the quality and freshness is going to be better. Most grocery stores do not buy from small farms, so the local market is the small farmers primary outlet. Remember, you get what you pay for.
If you want to shop at a local farmers market, make sure it is a certified market. A certified market means that you have to grow or make what you sell. I hate to tell you this, but at some markets, the vendors are buying produce from a distributor, which means it is just like buying at a big box store. If in doubt, ask where something came from, and don’t accept a vague answer, like Alabama. The Saturday morning fresh market in Ocean Springs is a certified market.
So, why aren’t you shopping the local markets? Fresh, local produce that helps support the local economy, what’s not to like?
For a list of certified markets in Mississippi, check out this link: https://www.mdac.ms.gov/bureaus-departments/farmers-market/certified-markets-mississippi/