The Benefits of Shopping at Farmers Markets

Farmers markets have grown in popularity in recent years. Nowadays, consumers interested in farmers markets can likely find one near their homes whether those homes are in rural communities, the suburbs or bustling cities. People who have never before shopped farmers markets may be curious as to why many people find them so appealing. The following are a handful of benefits of shopping farmers markets that might turn market novices into full-fledged devotees.

• Freshness: Many people visit farmers markets because the fruits and vegetables sold at such markets seem to taste more fresh than those sold at chain grocery stores. People are not mistaken, as the produce available at farmers markets often comes from local farms, meaning there’s no long-distance shipping necessary. Locally sourced foods need not be frozen en route to the market, meaning foods purchased there tend to taste especially fresh.

• In-season foods: Some grocery stores may sell fruits and vegetables even when those foods are out of season. Farmers markets only sell in-season fruits and vegetables. To grow fruits and vegetables out-of-season, farmers may need to rely on chemicals or other unnatural methods. No such means are necessary when farmers stick to growing foods in-season.

• Environmental benefits: According to the Center for Urban Education about Sustainable Agriculture, food in the United States travels an average of 1,500 miles to get to consumers’ plates. Such journeys burn natural resources, pollute the air and produce sizable amounts of trash that ultimately ends up in landfills and/or the world’s oceans. Because food sold at farmers markets is locally sourced, considerably fewer natural resources are necessary to transport the food from farm to table, and the relatively short distances the food travels translates to less air pollution.

• Biodiversity: Many farmers market shoppers find unique foods not readily available at their local grocery stores. This is not only a great way to discover new and delicious foods, but also a way to promote biodiversity.

• Hormone-free animal products: Farmers markets do not exclusively sell fruits and vegetables. Many farmers markets also are great places to find meats, cheeses and eggs. Animal products sold at farmers markets are typically antibiotic- and hormone-free, which is both more humane to the animals and healthier than animal products produced with hormones or antibiotics. Farmers markets are more accessible than ever, and the benefits to shopping such markets are endless.

Asheville Farmers Market listings:

WNC Farmers Market

Conveniently located near downtown Asheville, the big Western North Carolina Farmer’s Market is on a 36-acre site with a beautiful panoramic view of the mountains. The market is open all year, and seven days a week from 8 a.m. -6 p.m. April-October and from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. November-March. Find a big range of vendors with plenty of seasonal bounties. Admission and parking are free. The WNC Farmers Market is found at 570 Brevard Road (Highway 191), in Asheville.

Asheville City Market – Downtown 
Saturdays 8 a.m. to Noon, April-December
This very popular downtown market on North Market Street is between Woodfin Street and East Walnut Street. This “producer only” market features goods by local farmers, craftspeople, bakers and other vendors. Free parking for Asheville City Market is available at the HomeTrust Bank lot and the lot across from the YMCA at 35 Woodfin Street. Street parking is usually easy on Saturday morning. Held outside through the 3rd Saturday in December, with special holiday hours before it moves indoors at the Asheville Masonic Temple for the winter.

Asheville City Market – South 
Wednesdays Noon to 4 p.m., April-October
Midweek market operated by the Appalachian Sustainable Agriculture Project (ASAP).
Location: Long Shoals Road at I-26, Exit 27. In the center of Biltmore Park on Town Square Boulevard.

French Broad Food Coop Tailgate Downtown Market
Wednesdays 2-6 p.m., April-November
Asheville’s original organic tailgate market since 1990.
Location: 90 Biltmore Avenue, next to the French Broad Food Co-op, Asheville.

North Asheville Tailgate Market
Saturdays 8 a.m. to noon, April-November
The area’s oldest market with 40+ of the best farmers, bakers, growers, chefs and artists who offer a wide range of products.
Location: UNC Asheville (UNCA) Campus Commuter Lot #C. Enter UNCA from the WT Weaver Blvd. traffic circle onto University Heights. The market is the first lot on the right. Follow yellow signs for additional parking. Only a couple miles north of downtown.

West Asheville Tailgate Market
Tuesdays 3:30-6:30 p.m., April-November
Location: 718 Haywood Road, Asheville

East Asheville Tailgate Market
Fridays 3-6 p.m., May-September
Location: 954 Tunnel Road, Asheville

River Arts District Farmers Market
Wednesdays 3-6  p.m.
Producer-only market that provides an array of local, hand-crafted products. Offering sustainably-grown fruits and vegetables, baked goods, wood-fired breads, an amazing selection of meats, goat cheese and handmade soaps.
Location: 175 Clingman Avenue, Asheville River Arts District.

About Shelby Harrell
Shelby Harrell is the editor of the Biltmore Beacon, editor of The Guide arts and entertainment publication and is a staff writer for Mountaineer Publishing. Originally from Asheville, she has worked in journalism for seven years and currently lives in Clyde, NC.