I used to drive almost 12 miles round trip, mostly on city streets, to go to a farmer’s market the Alemany Market in San Francisco. They have a great selection–including organic and pesticide-free farmed–and a festival-like atmosphere I like. But, not the best choice in terms of overall sustainable for me. If I lived a 10-minute walk away, on the other hand, it would be a great choice.
The lesson learned is the importance of looking at the big picture of a decision to shop/eat more sustainably by shopping at a farmer’s market.
- Is it sustainable for me to get there? Is it in a location that is easy for me to access? Can I get there with a minimal carbon footprint?
- Is it the kind of market that I’d want to go to on a regular basis? Does it have the vendors/produce/prices/entertainment I like?
- Are there certified and pesticide-free farmed produce available?
- Are there good waste management practices on site? (This might be difficult to determine, but can’t hurt to look around.)
These day, I shop at the Civic Center farmer’s market on Sundays (also open Wednesdays). At a little over one mile away, it’s accessible by foot — and a strong backpack, strong back and careful shopping –, bus, and on the drive back from my yoga class.
A few farmer’s market shopping tips:
- Bring your own bags. Bring smaller plastic bags as well as larger ones, or a canvas bag. Every opportunity to NOT use a new plastic is a good opportunity.
- Browse around. Ask questions. Learn from the farmers. Some are more friendly or talkative than others. It can never hurt to ask. I’ve learned some of the best tips from farmers.
- For example, when I have a lot of leafy greens and don’t think I can use them all before they go bag, I steam them and freeze small portions for later use. Very convenient.
- Go early for the best selection. Go late for great bargains. Can’t eat that many peaches, even at only $1 a pound? Read last week’s tip on freezing fruit.
- Bring cash, including $1 bills and change.
- Have fun. Of course this is one of the most crucial ingredients of Everyday Sustainable.