Benefits of the Farmers Market

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Today, North Carolina Cooperative Extension, Robeson County Center, is celebrating local foods at the Robeson County Farmers market, located in downtown Lumberton at the corner of Elm and 8th streets. We are hosting our 10th Annual Summer Extravaganza. During this event our staff presents cooking demonstrations and offers various samples highlighting our local offerings at the market. Hopefully you are reading this in time to make it down to your local farmers market. Saturday’s hours are 7:00 a.m. – noon; some vendors may leave before noon if they sell out of product. Wednesday’s hours are 3:00 p.m. – 6:00 p.m. for afternoon shopping. I realize farmers markets are enjoying a recent surge in popularity across the land. We are very fortunate our market happens to be one of the longest-running markets in the state.

So what is the big deal about farmers markets? Who benefits from having a farmers market in the area? I will have to say, farmers markets are a really big deal. Often there are many small-scale farmers who would like to sell their extra product, but don’t have the time to sit by the road hoping someone will stop to purchase from them. A farmers market provides a place to sell with set hours so the producer can schedule their time. So who benefits? We have already shown how the farmer benefits. They are able to sell their extra produce in a limited time. I am also able to say many of our roadside stands in the area started their success at the farmers market. Customers benefit immensely due to the fact of purchasing locally produced food. Everyone has heard the average grocery store produce has traveled 1500 miles before you even purchase it. How about being able to buy a tomato that was picked yesterday, or literally just hours before you take it home to your family? There is a definite argument for freshness. I am also willing to say there is an economic benefit and value for purchasing fresher food. Considering the post-harvest handling of the product equates to a fresher purchase, it should hold longer before going “bad”.

I am pretty confident  everyone in the country over the age of 25 is well aware of the concept of supply chains and the mishaps associated with them. Buying locally is not subject to all the rigamarole we have seen inflicted on us by Covid’s recent grip. Supporting our local producers helps to ensure we will have a continuous local supply. I do have to say  grocers have spoiled us somewhat though, enabling us to purchase red tomatoes almost all year long, and many other items that are available out of season. Meaning out of season for our local growers. We need to change our mindset and focus on what is available currently or during the season we are shopping in. We can’t provide fresh turnips in July or a sweet cantaloupe in January, but when we think locally, we realize it is worth the wait.

Farmers markets are also a social hub. I have come to see familiar faces at our market over and over. We have developed friendships and acquaintances we enjoy seeing at the market. You get to meet the actual person that is growing your family’s food. How cool is that? I haven’t even started on the fact your money is supporting our local economy because the farmer spends his money locally at the seed store, doctors office, their kid’s schools, local mechanics….you get the idea! So support local and come on out! We’ll see you at the market!

For more information, contact Mack Johnson, Extension Horticultural Agent, at  910-671-3276, by Email at Mack_Johnson@nscu.edu, or visit our website.