Habit-Forming Farmers' Market

Whenever Fahema Rahman takes her 2-year-old son to the Boston Children’s Museum, she stops at the Dewey Square Farmers’ Market near South Station. Void of any tempting junk food or toys, she especially enjoys how her son reacts to the fresh produce and claims that he actually asks for fruit and other products that he sees.

Mark Smith, co-founder of Brookwood farm in Canton, Massachusetts, claims that the fresh produce that Rahman’s son desires can be attributed to the truly different taste of farmers’ market products compared to those sold at general supermarkets. Smith says, “A tomato picked the day before the market has a whole other quality than a tomato picked two weeks ago and put in cold storage, and then shipped from Florida. It is a completely different tasting vegetable.”

Rahman and Smith join many others that recognize the difference in farmers’ market produce. According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), 8,268 farmers’ markets existed nationally as of 2014 compared to the 6,132 listed in 2010. According to Martha Sweet, director of programs and operations at Mass Farmers’ Markets (MFM), the growth in farmers’ markets has skyrocketed in Massachusetts from 130 markets to 250 since she started working for MFM in 2007.

Smith credits the surge in popularity to people’s interest in knowing where their food is coming from and how it is grown. Rahman supports this notion, sharing that she enjoys meeting the people who are responsible for the creation of the produce and the reassurance that comes with that knowledge.

Benefits of Farmers’ Markets

Aside from the economic benefit to the farmers, Sweet says that farmers’ markets can actually benefit the communities that host them as well. “A study shows that out of all of the dollars that are spent at a farmers’ market, there are a certain number of dollars that are also spent in the community,” she says.

Both farmers and consumers benefit from Community Supported Agriculture (CSA), another way for farmers to bring fresh food to its community members. CSA is a system where the farm is supported by shareholders within the community. It takes place of the conventional farming system, in which the farm is completely dependent on the bank when taking out a loan in order to cover crop growing expenses.

Smith explains, “In a CSA, members of the community buy a share of the farm before the crop is planted. The farmer then takes that money, usually in January, and buys everything they need to get the farm going in the spring.” In return, members who invest in the farm receive between 15 to 20 pounds of fresh produce during each harvest week, depending on the size of share they purchase.

Another perk to shopping at farmers’ markets is the cost savings, especially for the college-aged population living in Boston on a student budget. Christina Bartson, an off-campus student attending Emerson College, grew up in a family that was a large supporter of the local economy and environment. Bartson has learned that buying from the farmers’ markets is the cheaper option. “I try to go as much as possible because it is cheaper. I get a lot more for my money,” she says.

Emerson College student, Olivia Rodbell, also grew up going to farmers’ markets. Because living a healthy lifestyle was instilled in her early, Rodbell considers it a normal activity to visit the farmers’ market versus a brandname store. A frequent shopper this past summer at Copley Farmers’ Market, she says, “The food is just so good and fresh. It’s also a fun, relaxing experience; you always see different vendors and interesting stuff at the market.”

Sweet echoes the sentiment that farmers’ markets are more than just a day for food shopping. She believes that the markets serve as a sort of “social hub” where customers are able to catch up with friends or family, as well as get to know their vendors. She remarks, “There is value to shoppers above and beyond just being able to purchase fresh food.”

To find a nearby farmers’ market, visit CityOfBoston.gov/food/farmers/.

Antonia DePace is a journalism student at Emerson College, in Boston.

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