Greengrocer selling organic fresh agricultural product at farmer market

Greengrocer selling organic fresh agricultural product at farmer market

As summer is upon us, we can make the most of the prime season of readily available local, fresh produce. A great place to find nearby produce, baked goods and other locally made products is the farmers market.

Not only can shopping at farmers markets be an enjoyable activity, but it also has many benefits to one’s overall wellness. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) Wellness Initiative invites you to think of “wellness” as being healthy in many interconnected dimensions of our lives. The Eight Dimensions of Wellness are: social, intellectual, environmental, physical, financial, emotional, spiritual and occupational. This article will explore ways in which farmers markets can enhance wellness in five of these dimensions.

You have the opportunity, while visiting the markets, to connect with old friends and meet new friends. Better yet, you can arrange to meet friends there and make a day of your visit. This can be very beneficial to one’s social wellness, which allows us to build and maintain lasting healthy relationships with others. Many vendors are also quite friendly and willing to socialize if they are not busy with other customers.

If you are interested in increasing your intellectual wellness while at the farmers market, ask the farmers about the products with which you are not familiar. Often, they can tell you what it is, how to prepare it, and maybe even share some great recipes. Intellectual wellness is a person’s continued desire to accumulate new knowledge.

The time spent outdoors can improve one’s environmental wellness. Environmental wellness involves a person’s ability to appreciate and protect their physical environment. Therefore it is also increased by purchasing locally — through the reduction of transportation and packaging of goods. According to the UPMC Health Matters blog article by Ashley Bramble, “Benefits of Buying at a Farmers Market,” food travels an average of 1,500 miles to reach your plate, adding pollution to the environment and utilizing a significant amount of fuel.

Physical wellness, which involves the quality of diet, body movement, sleep and overall body functioning, is also significantly boosted by visiting farmers markets. While at the farmers market you are walking and moving your body, which has many health benefits. The sunlight on your skin produces much needed vitamin D for your body.

The produce is fresh and at its peak, meaning it is loaded with vitamins and minerals that have not faded over time. This peak freshness also means that local produce has superior taste and texture compared to produce that has been picked, stored and shipped.

The produce selection also varies widely based on your local growing season, adding to the interest in returning week after week to see what new choices are available. In the USDA blog, “Top Reasons to Shop at Farmers Markets,” it is suggested that selecting a “rainbow of colors” of produce puts variety on your plate so you can benefit from the most antioxidants and phytonutrients. Scientists have agreed that there are over 4,000 phytonutrients that are naturally occurring in plant products like fruits, vegetables and legumes. These phytonutrients have many health benefits such as reducing cancer risk, reducing inflammation, lowering cholesterol, improving and protecting vision, skin health, bone health, heart health and more.

There are important considerations to protect your physical wellness when shopping at farmers markets. Make sure you are keeping food safety in mind. Sharon McDonald’s article, “Summertime Means Farmers Market Visits,” suggests bringing your own clean, reusable bags. Bring separate bags for your intended purchase categories. Fresh produce, raw meat, baked goods and other items should each have their own bag to prevent cross-contamination. Avoid crushed or bruised produce as they are more likely to harbor bacteria. The best option is to take your products directly home to be stored properly. If you have other stops to make and cannot go directly home, bring a cooler with ice packs to keep your perishable items chilled. Raw meats should be in a separate cooler from produce and baked goods with dairy frosting to prevent cross-contamination. Store all products properly and promptly when you arrive at home and wash all produce prior to cooking or consuming.

Financial wellness, defined as a person’s knowledge of financial matters, comfort with their current finances and future financial prospect, can also be positively impacted by shopping at local farmers markets. The products available are often cheaper than what can be found in the supermarket. Many farmers markets also accept WIC and SNAP benefits. Buying locally has many benefits to the local economy and helps support your neighbors’ financial wellness too.

For the best selection at farmers markets, arrive as close to opening as possible. If you are looking for deals, stop in at the end of the day when prices may be reduced, but so will selection.

If you are not sure where to find a local market or purchase farm-fresh food locally, there are great websites available to help. Penn State Extension Farm Market Finder is found at https://extension.psu.edu/farm-market-finder. Another great website is LocalHarvest.org (https://www.localharvest.org/locations/pa). Even if you are a regular farm-fresh consumer, you may find a new location to add to your routine.

 

Adrienne Bilek is a Penn State Extension program assistant with food, families and health and is based in Blair County.

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