Ring in Spring at Your Local Farmers Markets

— Written By N.C. Cooperative Extension
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Written by Emily Culpepper, B.S., Appalachian State University, Lenoir-Rhyne dietetic intern

Image of Gastonia farmers market

Spring is springing into action! The snow has melted, flowers and trees are blooming, and the bees are busy at work, excited to make Gaston County blossom. Farmers are busy bringing their farms and gardens back to life to bring us some delicious, nutritious produce! Farmers markets are beginning to open and it is so important for our community to come out and support our hardworking farmers.

The farmers market is not just a great place to go and pick up some produce, but it is also a great place to meet people in our community. While visiting a local farmers market, you are meeting people in the community who care. They care about supporting local farmers, while our farmers care about providing the freshest produce to their communities. There’s no better way to start fresh this spring than to purchase produce much fresher than what you will find in the grocery stores. The farmers market is also a fun place to be! There is an abundant amount of produce, but there are also bakery items, honey, crafts, flowers, and more.

The farmers market is a much more enjoyable environment than a grocery store. Many smiles are exchanged, with kind hearts and bellies to be filled. With every purchase you make, you know exactly who the money is going to and it is a rewarding feeling to know you are helping support the community. By buying produce at the local farmers market, the money is supporting the local economy to stay in the community instead of flowing out to the large grocery store businesses. Studies have shown for every dollar of sales, direct markets are generating twice as much economic activity within the region, as compared to producers who are not involved in direct marketing. North Carolinians spend about $35 billion a year on food. If we all spent 10% of the money that we spend on food (about $1.05 per day) locally, there would be about $3.5 billion available in the local economy.

There are different farmers markets around to check out, and know that you are a part of the positive impact for the community when supporting your farmers market. Many people may not think there is much in season, and although it is just the beginning of spring, there are actually a lot of great produce items becoming available.These produce items not only support your farmers and community, but also yourself. Fresh fruits and vegetables provide us with the vitamins and minerals that promote health and wellness. This can help lower the risk for many chronic health problems and is a great preventative measure no matter what condition or lack of you may have.

Tips for shopping at local farmers markets:

  1. Know what’s in season. Before you go to the farmers market, it’s important to know what is in season, so you know what items are freshest and at the best price. Click here for a listing of NC seasonal produce
  2. Don’t be afraid to try new things! There is a large variety of items, and if there’s something you don’t recognize, you can ask the farmer about it. Often, growers have great suggestions on how to prepare produce items they offer.
  3. The Gastonia farmers market accepts EBT and SNAP as payment for produce as well. Cash is the better option as payment for farmers, as not all stands will have debit/credit card choices.
  4. Shop early for the best selection. There may be limited or no items available at the end of the market day.
  5. Be sure that you bring your own grocery bags for convenient carrying.
  6. Bring cash – small bills – for simple transactions.The Gastonia Farmers Market accepts EBT and SNAP as payment for produce as well. Cash is the better payment option for most markets – not all stands have debit/credit card choices.
  7. Make sure to bring along a cooler in case you purchase items that need to be kept cool, or if you run errands after the market.