Hi, everyone! My name is Laurelin, and I’m an intern in the Office of Sustainability! I’m back with a brand new blog post about local foods in Ames – check out my top five reasons to visit the Farmers’ Markets!
Over the past year, I’ve been battling against the greatest challenge of my college career: learning how to cook. I moved into an apartment as a senior, and ever since I’ve struggled to prepare my meals. Today – approximately 1,000 meals later – I’m can pretty much fend for myself in the kitchen. But my biggest problem is that I never really feel inspired to cook.
So this fall I resolved to go to the farmers’ markets and add some variety into my weekly meals! Here in Ames, we have not one but two farmers’ markets to choose from! Both markets have a six-month season, running from early May through late October. The Ames Main Street Farmers’ Market is held every Saturday from 8am to 12:30pm in downtown Ames, and the North Grand Farmers’ Market is held each Wednesday from 3-6pm and Saturday from 8am-12:30pm in the parking lot north of JCPenneys at North Grand Mall.
From a sustainability standpoint, farmers’ markets support the environment, the economy, and the community! Farmers’ markets protect the environment by minimizing the distance food travels from farm to fork, support the economy by creating a marketplace for local goods, and promote stronger community ties through vendor-visitor interactions!
When I arrived at the farmers’ markets, I was amazed by the selection of fresh, local produce (which is definitely one of perks of going to school in Iowa)! I was also surprised that the farmers’ markets had a lot more to offer than food! There was a wide variety of handmade goods, like upcycled aprons, jewelry, and soap, and there was also free entertainment! Local bands were playing covers of well known hits, and face painting was offered for children!
After strolling up and down the market several times, I left with a bag full of fresh produce and new ideas for my next meal swirling around in my head! I’m definitely going to start attending the farmers markets’ more frequently, and here are my top five reasons why you should check out your local farmers’ market, too!
1. Connect with the community
Farmers’ markets are a great way to connect with your community! Becoming more engaged can be as simple as asking the vendors about their favorite items, striking up a conversation with a fellow food truck enthusiast, or stopping to say hello to the performing musicians! During my time at the farmers’ market, I had a long conversation with a vendor about the different ways to produce organic honey. I learned a lot, got a free sample, and connected with someone I might never have met otherwise!
2. Learn where your food comes from
Farmers’ markets make it easy to learn where your food comes from! When I’m shopping for groceries at large supermarket chains, I find it difficult to figure out where the food I’m purchasing comes from. But when I’m at the farmers’ market, I can get answers to my questions by asking the vendors directly about their products and production!
3. Get inspired to use new ingredients
Strolling around the farmers’ market can give you new inspiration for your meals! When I came across an ingredient I was unfamiliar with at the farmers’ market, I asked the vendor for more information about it. Not only did the vendor identify the mystery vegetable (kohlrabi), she also told me how it could be prepared and what other foods could be paired with it! Now that I’m empowered to learn about new foods, I can share my knowledge (and experimental dishes) with others!
4. Grab meals on the go
Farmers’ markets are a prime gathering place for food trucks! In addition to getting ingredients for future meals, I also love to pick up food on the go at the farmers’ market. I’ve made it my goal to try as many different food trucks as possible before I graduate, which helps support Ames businesses and lets me live out my dreams as a (local) foodie!
5. Enjoy the outdoors
With a full schedule of classes, clubs and organizations, and two part time jobs, I spend a lot of my time in a classroom, an office, or at my desk. The farmers’ markets give me a reason to spend an hour or two outside every weekend, and when the weather is nice, the combination of fresh air, sunshine, and the hustle and bustle of the market really do lift my spirits and help me unwind from the long week!
Although the farmers’ market season is coming to an end, you can embrace your inner local foodie all year round! Check out local businesses around the community, and keep searching out new experiences! I’m sure that your stomach will thank you for it!
Written by Laurelin Haas, Live Green! Special Initiatives Intern
Featured Image: extension.iastate.edu