by Amanda Rose Newton
The first week of August is National Farmer’s Market Week, which gives everyone at Rockledge Gardens an opportunity to brag about the wonderful vendors who help keep healthy-eating an obtainable and achievable goal for Brevard county.
The pandemic exposed just how many links make up the chain between our food and the table, and how one break can derail the whole system. With food costs on the rise and shortages on the horizon, shopping locally and understanding seasonality is so important. Not only are you helping local small businesses when you buy your produce locally, but you are also reducing your carbon footprint. While it might not seem like it would make a huge difference, it does in the long run.
Savor the Season
Nowadays, you can shop the world in the produce department! Everything from tropical fruit to apples are available year-round, whether in-season or not. While this is wonderful for knowing you can always count on an apple in your lunch bag every day, seasonal produce helps us reconnect with the cycles of nature. In Florida, it is especially easy to lose track of the seasons, and it’s often joked that we do not have any!
However, produce reflects seasonality and you can see the ebb and flow of the availability change even on a monthly scale. While August might look a little barebones, one can still create savory dishes with peppery greens and collards and finish the meal with the end of the summer’s mango harvest.
Seasonal eating gives one something to celebrate and look forward to. Pumpkins (!!) are just around the corner, which are considered by many to be the quintessential fall food. One could say they even give Florida autumn vibes!
In addition to produce, honey reflects the flowers in bloom at the time of collection, preserves and jams lock in the end of summer’s harvest, and food from Cypress Table is designed to bring out the best of seasonal, local eating. Indulge in each season, as each has so many unique treats to offer.
Enjoying the season helps you appreciate the taste of fresh food during the season it was meant to be enjoyed. Fruits and vegetables you pick up at farmer’s markets are picked at the ideal time and are produced on a much smaller scale. This equates to better tasting and higher quality food than anything you would get at the grocery store.
Many of the veggies and fruits on supermarket shelves have been sprayed with ethylene to hasten the ripening process, as many must be picked before their time in order to lessen bruising in transport. When you buy produce from local farmers, you are getting food closest to its truest form– which you deserve!
Supporting local farmers is already an environmentally friendly action. Local farmers do not have the infrastructure to compete with huge suppliers, so you are giving them both a better return on their product and a chance to succeed.
This effort reduces the carbon footprint of your food, as it is not traveling as far to get to your table. If you are curious, grocery store vegetables travel roughly 1,500 miles on average to get to your dinner plate. Think of all the wasted resources!
While we cannot be as perfect as we would like all the time, this is one area you can make a small difference by choosing farmer’s markets when you can and it certainly will add up week after week!
In addition to supporting farmers, your purchases are supporting the humane treatment of animals (and plants)! Eggs, cheese, yogurt, and meat available in the market are not treated with antibiotics, are free-range, and are not raised in feedlots. Additionally, many of our produce growers utilize organic methods, meaning no pesticides and herbicides are used in production.
The Power of Community
We all know Brevard is a special place. A farmer’s market is a unique element that truly brings people from all walks of life together. With the social aspects provided by events, being able to chat with vendors in-person, seeing and learning how to prepare new-to-you produce, and meeting new people, a farmer’s market is more than just a place to buy food. Farmer’s markets provide a place to get an education, the news, and feel connected to produce and people as well.
This month, make it a point to visit the farmer’s market at Rockledge Gardens. Try a new-to-you in-season vegetable or purchase a new condiment from a vendor. Or, simply grab a glass of beer or wine and chat! Whatever your values, the Farmer’s Market is your community marketplace.