When it comes to these little gems, questions arise centering on the cost of organic, sustainable foods, how they can often be more expensive then their Big Grocer counterparts and why it is important to support them.
It’s not rocket-science, but lets review the benefits of supporting these markets with their small farmers. First take a gander at this list of farmers markets throughout the city.
Highly Nutritious: Local produce has more nutrients than their shipped-in foreign or West Coast counterparts. Vitamins and nutrients begin to deplete the minute the produce is picked. Therefore, the food is more nutrient dense the closer it is to its source. Locally picked produce is also harvested at full ripeness rather than weeks early, unlike non-local produce. According to Penn State food scientists, spinach loses half of its nutrient content by day eight. What a waste.
Stewards of the Land: The single most beneficial thing that these amazing Mom and Pop, small farmers do is that they take responsibility for keeping their farms free of chemical pesticides, noxious fumes and excess manure. Small family farmers live on or near their farms and strive to preserve the surrounding environment for future generations, as noted by blog site Sustainable Table.
Carbon Footprint: This is probably the most obvious for those of you that get the reality of living a healthy, green life. The biggest problem with your carbon footprint and your food has a lot to do with the food you choose (beef, for example, is responsible for 150 percent more green house gasses then chicken or fish reports Christopher L. Weber and H. Scott Matthews, professors at Carnegie Mellon University) and it is estimated that the average meal travels over 1,200 miles. No, your frequent flyer miles do not apply.
There are plenty of reasons to pick your local markets, not to mention the sheer entertainment value you get when you visit them. From chef demos and free samples to activities for the tykes and trying local products, take some time this summer and visit different markets in the different neighborhoods.
Two of my favorite local spots:
Urban Orchard (5212 N. Clark St., 773-754-7253), owned and operated by Eric Mazzone, an LGBT pioneer in green grocing and eating local and organic, this Andersonville hub is a very popular ‘hood haunt’ for North Side “locavores”. Essentially a slick, year-round indoor farmer’s market with local small farms and artisan vendors, Urban Orchard samples many of its local products weekly. Eric is also planning a “Buyers Club,” a take on the popular CSAs, but here you have more choices including local produce and local chicken, fish, pork and beef.
BrownTrout Farmer’s Market (Tuesdays, year-round, 5 p.m. – 8 p.m. 4111 N. Lincoln Ave.), created by Ground Up Chicago - A Chef Farmer Community, this market serves as an incubator for very small farms and gives them access to the Chicago market while charging very little for a farmer’s booth. Smaller scene here, but the passion is just as apparent as you find at the other farmer’s markets throughout the city.