The sweet smell of newly baked bread, the tangy taste of chilled cranberry juice and the spirited sound of a frisky fiddle tune; a few of the attractions that may greet visitors to a Farmers' Market.
These days Farmers' Markets offer a rich mosaic of choices: juicy berries, organic vegetables, fragrant herbs, and fresh cheese. Colourful canopies cover displays of a rainbow of delicious items - everything from A to Z - apples to zucchinis, apricots to zinnias. Unique one-of-a-kind crafts, rare bedding plants, freshly laid eggs, friendly chats and recipe sharing with helpful vendors can all be found at Farmer's Markets. I learned that you can get more green nutrition from a strawberry smoothie by adding spinach to it.
"Seventy-five per cent of Canadians surveyed say they prefer to buy locally-grown foods to keep dollars in the local economy, because of better fresh taste and greater nutrient value," says Tara McDonald, Executive Director of Vancouver Farmers' Markets. "These markets are a primary source of local, farm-direct produce, with most market foods travelling from less than 300 kilometres away."
Most food travels thousands of kilometres before reaching a person's plate. Estimates are between 2,400 to 4,000 kilometres per meal. Because they do not need to be shipped over long distances, most foods from a Farmers' Market help reduce greenhouse gas emissions, therefore helping keep the environment cleaner.
Markets tend to present a relaxed, friendly environment. Whether in a city or rural area, there is a "country fair" atmosphere. It's about strolling, sampling and slowing down the shopping experience. There won't be any high-tech price scanners or flashy neon signs. Instead, there is a family friendly feeling from vendors who "make, bake or grow your food." Each market will offer its own unique offering of diverse goods - no two displays alike - no repetitive corporate branding here! Each vendor displays their own personality and style, coming together to present some of the best that B.C. farmers and artisans have to offer.
"Each week, thousands of people are discovering the freshest foods from B.C.'s lands and waters, breads, prepared foods, nursery plants, plus great entertainment, knowledgeable farmers, and artisan crafters - all this and more at B.C.'s Farmers' Markets!" reports Tara McDonald.
To help make a market trip easier, there is an excellent directory and map of over 105 markets in B.C., at www.bcfarmersmarket.org. This site also has appetizing recipes, including ones for Apricot Muffins and Strawberry Pie.
Farmers' Markets have had a new term added to their vocabulary - agri-tourism. As society grows hungrier for better, close-to-the-land and back-to-nature foods, they're also looking for leisure activities "close to home." Farmers' Markets can offer that weekend getaway adventure or become part of a longer summer vacation excursion. Some people have fond childhood memories of family car trips to Kelowna in the summer when stops for fresh B.C. cherries were a delicious delight. Another source for information on Canadian markets is http://www.traveltowellness.com/canada_farmers_markets
May to October is the high season for visits, but some are open year-round. Why not gather friends and visit a Farmers' Market? It's a great reminder that not all food comes encased in square boxes.
Oh, and don't forget to bring a reusable shopping bag!
SENIOR LIVING VANCOUVER - May 2009
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