The farmers' market difference

If you know me by now, you know healthy food is my jam. I love shopping for it, cooking it, and eating it. All. The. Time. One could say I’m kind of obsessed. So it shouldn’t surprise you that when I lived in Brooklyn, I was a proud member of the Park Slope Food Coop. This members-only store has its members work monthly shifts counting produce, stocking shelves, and swiping groceries at check out; in turn, they remove all overhead and offer members ridiculously low prices on the highest quality foods that come straight from the farm. I’ve never eaten such farm fresh food in my entire life, and simultaneously saved on my grocery bill. I couldn’t even shop there without running into a friend – healthy entrepreneurs, chef colleagues, and neighbors. It was my heaven.

When I moved to NJ, I began relying heavily on Whole Foods. Now, Whole Foods is a wonderful phenomenon. In my opinion, they are responsible for popularizing the healthy food movement, much like Starbucks revolutionized the coffee industry. They’re everywhere, and they make healthy accessible to the masses. The fact that my 92-year-old grandmother goes to the store to buy organic produce for her morning smoothie tells me the healthy lifestyle is more mainstream than ever. Yet they’re incredibly overpriced, and the quality does not match the price tag. Maybe I’m biased from my Park Slope Food Coop days. Maybe I’m a food snob. Either way, I started racking up my Whole Foods charges in an effort to get my healthy food fix.

My bank account noticed. And my belly felt it. Something just wasn’t the same.

Then last weekend, Alex and I visited the Montclair farmers market. In a word, it was EPIC. Not only was there the high quality I’ve been missing – farm-fresh produce, pastured meats and poultry, wild caught fresh seafood – there was COMMUNITY. The farmers were friendly. Locals came by with their kids. Vendors were supporting other tents. It was the face-to-face connection that you just don’t get by going to a regular grocery store.

Why does this matter? If you can buy broccoli at the grocery store, why should you schlepp to the farmers’ market early on a weekend morning when you’d rather be sleeping in? Because I believe that community is everything. When we share nourishing food with those around us, and find common ground around the food we eat, especially health supportive food, it is ten times easier and more enjoyable to live our healthiest lives possible. The difference between the grocery store and the farmers market is the difference between trying a recipe once and mastering your kitchen. It makes that much of a difference.

So I urge you, wherever you live, to find your local farmers market. I challenge you to buy at least 5 items and taste the difference for yourself. And beyond that, make eye contact with the purveyors. Strike up conversation with the other shoppers. Your belly and soul will be fed on multiple levels, and I have a pretty good feeling you’ll feel more nourished than ever before.

Happy & healthy,
Michelle