Farmers markets aid environment, economy

Farmers markets are on the rise across the United States. By 2011, there were more than 7,000 of them, up from 1,755 in 1994.

The average grocery store sells 47,000 products. That suggested a wide variety of choice. But, experts say, people actually get to choose among a few major crops. Much of the processed food in grocery stores, they say, consists of corn byproducts and derivatives, including

Cellulose, saccharin, poly dextrose, xanthan gum, malt dextrin and high-fructose corn syrup.

Farmers market operators and some researchers say the markets may give people healthier food. The Center for a New American Dream, a nonprofit organization designed to raise awareness of the negative impact of hyper-consumerism, says that small farmers who sell their own food in small markets “are more likely to grow” a wider range of produce than grocery stores that that they tend to protect biodiversity and preserve “a wider agricultural gene pool, an important factor in long-term food security.”

Farmers markets stimulate local economic development by increasing employment and encouraging consumers to support area businesses, thus keeping money in the community, according to the University of Liverpool.  Local farmers markets, like Glaser’s Organic Farms in Miami’s Coconut Grove neighborhood, have partnered with their community by selling their products in the local Whole Foods supermarket.

Farmers markets cut out the middleman, allowing increased financial returns through direct selling. They provide feedback on prices and products to customers. They also play a role in educating people about food and its origins.

Rich Pirog, associate director of the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture at Iowa State University, said in a report that the average fresh-food item on the dinner table travels 1,500 miles, creating a large carbon footprint.

Farmers markets provide only local food. That’s cuts packaging and transportation costs and reduces pollution and fuel consumption.  As a result, many environmentalists say that farmers markets help reduce global warming.

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