San Franciscans are fortunate to have an abundance of food grown or raised within a small radius of where we live. This also provides ample opportunities to incorporate these food choices into our lifestyle. Besides the obvious fruits and vegetables, farmers’ markets offer a plethora of other products: grass-fed beef, homemade sausage, eggs, cheeses, butter, nuts, breads, olive oils, and flowers.
There are a dozen year-round farmers’ markets throughout the City and at least six seasonal markets. A trip to the market can be a fun family outing. Here are just some of the reasons to plan your next dinner with the fabulous food fare found locally in the Bay Area.
Local food tastes better. Did you know the average distance produce is flown or trucked is 1,500 miles? A weeklong produce shipment allows for sugars to turn to starches, plant cells to shrink, and vitality to be lost. In contrast, produce grown locally was most likely picked within the last 24 hours, which greatly preserves its flavor.
Fresher produce has a better nutritional value. Because fresh produce loses nutrients quickly, food frozen or canned right after harvest is often better than produce that might have been on a supermarket shelf or truck for an extended time period. Food purchased close to its harvest has a better chance of retaining nutrients.
Local foods support the community. Studies show that supporting local vendors puts more dollars back into the community that would otherwise go to large corporations located in other states. When you buy directly from a farmer, the money from your purchase goes directly to the farmer. Commercial farmers that sell to large corporate food companies receive only a small percentage of the money from the produce they sell.
Local food can be less expensive. With the high cost of fuel being imposed on consumers, local vendors are probably less likely to pass on such a charge.
Carbon emissions are reduced. Foods that travel vast distances cost more in terms of transportation and obviously increase the carbon footprint exponentially. So when you buy locally, there’s also a feel-good component about knowing your food choices are contributing less to global warming.
You’ll have a better awareness of your food source. It’s a lot easier to know exactly where your food is coming from, if it is organic, and what processes it has gone through before it ends up on your table. At a farmer’s market, you might even be able to ask the grower himself.
Locally grown food offers variety and uniqueness. Unlike food found at a large grocery chain, local food is bred for flavor, not uniformity. You can also find unique varieties of foods not readily available at a large chain store; for example, fresh garbanzo beans.
You’ll find inspiration. Not sure what to cook for dinner tonight? A trip to the farmers’ market will take care of that!
Don’t forget to take your own shopping bags to carry your bounty. A cart on wheels can come in handy if you are walking or taking the bus. Metro Kart’s insulated cooler bag features a large zippered opening and sits on a sturdy, lightweight trolley. Another option is a hand-woven straw basket with a reinforced leather handle made specifically to haul produce from a farmers’ market.