100 Day Challenge #36: Find out what "local" means to your farmers market
You go to the farmers market and you're going to buy food from a local farmer who raised it, right? At least that's the way it used to be, but as cities get larger and land prices get higher, the farmers are having to move further and further away from the city.
A couple of months ago we set out on a farmers market quest to find all the great markets in our area and figure out which ones had the best local produce. We put on our hats, got our reusable bags and a notepad and off we went on the hunt. We learned a lot that day but we wanted to know more, so we returned to the Dallas Farmers Market (DFM) and talked with two of their super friendly spokespersons about the market's “local” journey.
We learned that a group of investors revamped the old DFM a few years ago, and when the renovations were finished, they decided that all the produce offered would be from a 150 mile radius. That sounds great, but they quickly realized there weren't enough farmers within that radius to meet the quantity and variety of produce that the market wanted to offer year round. If you went to the market in August for example, you probably saw a few vendors who were all selling squash and tomatoes and not much more. That's when the administrators at the Dallas Farmers Market decided to make some changes to what they considered to be local.
So what is the definition of local food?
Is it within a 100 mile radius, 200, 500?? The USDA defines local food “as the direct or intermediated marketing of food to consumers that is produced and distributed in a limited geographic area. There is no pre-determined distance to define what consumers consider local, but a set number of miles from a center point or state/local boundaries is often used.” Well, that doesn't help too much.
The Dallas Farmers Market has adopted the definition of "local" as any food raised in Texas or within 400 miles from Dallas. Everyone knows Texas is REALLY BIG. You can drive southwest of Dallas for 10 hours and still be in Texas, but we also understand why the DFM widened their scope and definition of what they considered to be local. Their mission is "to cultivate a healthier, more sustainable lifestyle for all of North Texas through the promotion, availability and appreciation for locally produced quality food, producers, growers and makers" and that requires offering a variety of produce year round. Some people may not think that getting food from south Texas is local to Dallas, but we are a-okay with that! We appreciate the DFM's transparency and we're thrilled to buy from local Texas farmers (wherever in Texas they may come from). The food is super fresh and (especially when compared to grocery store produce from around the world) still has a minimal footprint even if it had to be trucked a few hours to get to us.
Do a little research before you go to your farmers market; visit their website, read their mission statement, and see what their definition of local is and if it aligns with what you're looking for.
We now have some favorite vendors at the Dallas Farmers Market who we return to on a regular basis for their colorful and abundant offerings. Go have fun. Buy some delicious, local produce. Be a part of your community. Get to know the local farmers and learn about the challenges they're up against. And most importantly, buy a variety of fruits and vegetables to add lots of interest to your developing plant-based diet!