It’s National Farmers Market Week, and we’re celebrating it with a full week of blog posts about – you guessed it – Farmers Markets. Look for food facts, fruit and veggie pics, healthy recipes and lots of information about the Worcester farmers market scene.

On Saturday, USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack had this to say about the benefits of farmers markets for consumers, farmers and the entire community:

“Farmers Markets benefit communities by offering healthy, wholesome food while local farmers and ranchers benefit from new ways to present their products to customers,” said USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack in Washington, DC. “People are changing how they think about farmers markets as they become community gathering points, and we have seen a 64 percent increase in customer traffic in markets open for at least two years.”

We’re kicking off our own Community Farmers Market Appreciation Week with a list of 10 Great Reasons to Shop at Community Farmers Markets here in Worcester. Special thanks to REC Community Farmers Markets for allowing us to use their FB timeline photos to help illustrate all the benefits of shopping locally at Worcester farmers markets.

  1. Support urban agriculture and local youth programming!
    Worcester REC’s YouthGROW program teaches city youth leadership, job and agricultural skills that they can take with them into adulthood. YouthGROW (Youth Growing Organics in Worcester) currently operates two urban farms in the city, and is working with 34 youth this summer. In addition to farming and selling at the REC farmers markets, YouthGROW farmers have been tackling a new project this year. YouthGROW coordinator Grace Sliwoski explained,

    This year we’ve been working with our youth to develop entrepreneurship skills. We reached out to Cafe Reyes and Pure Juz and are doing some direct sales to them of parsley, cilantro and other fresh greens. It’s so fantastic to see their as they get involved in the business side and see the fruits of their labor in actual production environments.

    youthgrow farm

  2. Stretch your food budget!
    All the REC Community Farmers Markets and Mobile Farmers Markets accept Senior Coupons, WIC Farmers Market Coupons and EBT/SNAP payments. If you’re paying with SNAP, you can stretch your food spending dollars by up to $20 extra bucks. All REC markets (and other participating Worcester Farmers Markets) will take 50% off your purchases up to the first $40 you spend on fresh, wholesome, healthy and delicious locally grown food.
  3. Support local small business owners!
    It’s not just farmers at the farmers market. Many local businesses sell their goods there, too. Whether they’re totally local, or unusual franchise operations, like Great Harvest Bread Co., locally owned businesses put more money back into the community than national chains. When you buy from local farmers and businesses at the farmers market, you’re improving the economic health of the community.
  4. Discover new local products!
    Sure, you’ll find string beans and zucchini and corn on the cob at the farmers market, but you’ll also have the chance to discover neat local products you may not find anywhere else. Seriously – we almost just titled this one “Drop It Like It’s Hot Sauce,” because it’s totally worth a trip to Beaver Brook Farmers Market just to keep a supply of it on hand.
  5. Relax and enjoy the scenery!
    Relaxation is as vital to your overall health as eating healthy foods. We haven’t seen the research to back this up, but we can tell you from experience that shopping at the farmers market is about 1000% more enjoyable than shopping the sterile aisles of the supermarket. You’ll get fresh air, meet cool people and maybe find something beautiful to take home with you – besides the beautiful food.
  6. Enjoy special events and get physical!
    You never know what you’re find on Saturday mornings at the REC Main South Farmers Market – just behind the YMCA on Main St. There may be live music, a DJ, or an opportunity to get physical and stretch your muscles with a little bit of Yoga in the Park.
  7. Connect with local crafters and entrepreneurs!
    Beautiful, right? Our mission is to promote healthy food and active living policies, helping to make Worcester a healthier, more vibrant city, but sometimes you just have to enjoy the pretty. You never know what you’ll find from one week to the next, but you can bet you’ll find something great to love.
  8. All the awesomely healthy and delicous local foods!
    You knew we’d get here eventually, right? Zucchini, cucumbers, vine-ripened tomatoes – all picked fresh just around the corner from you. Supermarket veggies often travel thousands of miles before they reach you. They might be pretty, but they’ve often been waxed or treated to keep them looking fresh and shiny. As for taste, well – until you taste the difference between heirloom veggies raised nearby and mass-produced hybrids bred for looks, you won’t believe it.
  9. Amazing selection – that you can actually select!
    Worcester’s farmers markets feature an incredibly broad assortment of locally grown produce, including many types of veggies and greens you won’t find at the supermarket. Even better, you’re not stuck buying prepackaged, plastic and styro-bound produce. You can actually pick and choose exactly the bundles and bunches and pieces of fruit that look just right for your family. Oh, and did you notice the okra? And chard? If you need tips on how to prepare and serve foods you don’t know well, there’s a friendly face right there ready to answer all of your questions.
  10. Healthy, affordable foods that support diversity in agriculture!
    When you buy at Worcester farmers markets, you’re supporting small family farms throughout the region. Small farms like these are at the forefront of sustainable agriculture – organically grown, pesticide-free, non-GMO and often heirloom varieties of vegetables and fruit that aren’t profitable for factory farms to grow.

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