Anyone who's ever eaten blueberries picked right off the branch knows the taste of fresh, wholesome food. But fresh produce isn't always easy to find, and for many families, it isn't easy to afford. The Medford Farmers Market opened nine years ago to give residents access to locally grown, healthy food. The open-air market runs from June to mid-October every year.
Susan Altman, Board Member, explains the benefits of fresh and local produce: "Because produce is a fresh, perishable commodity, people need to buy it regularly and seasonally to get its full benefit. At the Medford Farmers Market, shoppers can also find fresh pasta, pasture-raised meats, breads, sweet and savory pies, cheese, and other products. Local foods provide many benefits. For one thing, local foods are fresher. The greens, corn, herbs, and fruits sold at the Medford Farmers Market are typically picked that same morning. And because they haven't spent days or possibly even weeks in storage before they got to the consumer, they taste fresh and delicious."
Locally grown foods cut down on long distance transportation costs and the need for cold storage, reducing the environmental costs of bringing produce to the table. Produce at the Medford Farmers Market comes from local farms in Concord, Sterling, Littleton, and Dracut, MA, less than an hour's drive away. Shorter storage times and fewer steps from farm to table also mean less risk of contamination and thus greater food safety.
The farmers market is a festive affair, with contests, food trucks, performances by local musicians, and activities for kids, all fostering a sense of community. The Medford Farmers Market also has a strong emphasis on educational programming, which sets it apart. This includes film screenings, nutrition education and cooking classes. In the past year the Market, as part of the Medford Film Collaborative, screened three films - Symphony of the Soil, Sriracha, and Food Chains - at different locations.
Another concern that sets the market apart is ensuring that fresh produce is accessible to low-income families as well. Rosie Gill, President of the market's Board of Directors says, "Eating more fruits and vegetables also helps prevent chronic illnesses such as diabetes, heart disease, some forms of cancer, and obesity. Yet, most people, particularly those struggling to make ends meet on limited incomes, do not consume the recommended servings of fruits and veggies."
The Market's Produce in a SNAP! Program provides access to healthy food and educational resources for nutritious eating. It offers EBT dollar-for-dollar matching for families with SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) benefits. There is also a series of classes on eating healthy on a limited budget, and a subsidized family farm share program for local low-income families. A subsidized food bag for seniors allows those living alone to eat healthy as well.
Farmers markets seem to harken back to simpler times, to clean air, fresh food and small communities where everyone knows and looks out for each other. As the Medford Farmers Market shows, they may also be the way of the future, providing lasting solutions to environmental and social crises.
Watch a demo of how it works!