Benefits of the Farmers Market
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Opening day for the Robeson County Farmers Market, located in downtown Lumberton at the corner of 8th and Elm Street is Saturday, May 13. What are some of the benefits of a farmers market? Everyone has to eat, right? That insinuates that everyone has to shop for what they eat also, right? So my next question is, does it matter where you shop for the food you plan to eat? In my opinion, with a resounding YES, it does matter where we go to purchase the food we eat. On that note, I must start listing some of the benefits of not only purchasing local, but supporting your community farmers market.
Shopping in a traditional grocery store can be impersonable, unless you make the effort to befriend your cashier or you see a friend who is also shopping. The vendor at the market makes it a point to get to know their customers and also learn their shopping habits, even to the point of making recommendations on a different product they feel you may enjoy after learning your preferences. Not only that, but you – the customer – can actually know who and where your food is produced. Looking for recipes or how best to process that new vegetable you want to try? It’s doubtful the cashier at the checkout will be able to help you, but I bet the person that grew it can help you prepare it.
How about the most obvious reason – you are supporting a local farmer! A 2017 survey published by the National Young Farmers Coalition (NYFC) found farmers over the age of 65 outnumbered farmers under the age of 35 by six to one. The survey interestingly noted that farmers markets provide an important outlet for supporting farming occupations, especially for younger farmers who already may face obstacles related to land accessibility, student-loan debt, health insurance, or finding skilled labor. We have several young farmers in our county that cannot make the acquisition of large acreage or big equipment to enable them to supply grocery chains, so they farm on a small scale, but can easily be supported at your local market.
Is cost an issue? If so, there are several programs to assist qualifying applicants with the purchase of local fresh groceries. We have the Farmers Market Nutrition Program (FMNP) and the Seniors’ Farmers Market Nutrition Program, both funded by United States Department of Agriculture and administered through local programs. The great news is that our market has just been approved to accept SNAP/EBT at the market. Hopefully this will make our freshest food products available to a previously underserved community that had limited access to fresh, locally-grown food.
So, there are many good reasons to shop your local farmers market! It is convenient, with open hours on Wednesdays from 3-6 p.m. and Saturdays from 7 a.m.-noon. It’s accessible, with plenty of parking at the downtown location. It’s fun and it is fresh! Hope to see you at the farmers market today!