Monday, August 8, 2011

The Farmers’ Market: Crunchy 101

My family spent a simply lovely morning at the local farmers' market yesterday.  We ate breakfast burritos and authentic Belgian waffles.  We guzzled down three hefty cups of lemonade as we braved the heat already entering the 90s.  We chatted with local vendors and other market dwellers, seeing a few familiar faces.  It was hot.  It was crowded.  It was tons of fun.  And it was so educational.  Who knew?

One of my main goals with this blog is to chronicle the health changes I have been implementing into my family’s daily living.  I guess you could say, I’m trying to give our lives a little more crunch.  Who knew that one trip to my local farmers’ market would give me so much to talk about! From wonderful produce to the power of honey to breastfeeding support (that’s right, breastfeeding support!) our day at the farmers’ market turned into a crash course in healthy living.  Crunchy 101. 

Local Produce

Our first stop, after breakfast, was to visit the many produce vendors, as these usually sell out very quickly.  Summer squash and corn on the cob were among the favorites.  Our basket was quickly filled with red onions and zucchini.  Next came watermelon and the cutest little cantaloupes I have ever seen.

I also found some delectable yellow tomatoes that are so good I can eat them with a little mayo in a sandwich by themselves (although they would also be fantastic in a BLT).  One giant red tomato also mysteriously found its way into our bag (I didn’t want the reds to feel left out).

There are many benefits to buying local produce.  Its healthier; all the produce vendors had signs up stating that their produce is pesticide and herbicide free.  No chemicals or synthetic fertilizers are employed.  Unlike food you find in a grocery store that has been picked days or weeks ahead of time and then transported up to 2500 miles, local food is fresh.  Local farmers can focus on breeding produce for taste rather than focusing on preservation.  They also have a more positive impact on the environment by keeping shipping distances short and saving community land that might otherwise go to developers.  Its also nice knowing I’m contributing to my local economy and I’m supporting local farmers, a job becoming more and more endangered all the time.

Fresh Herb Leaf Tea

Between produce vendors, we found a gentleman who sells herbs, spices, and teas.  His booth was small and his white beard was long, almost down to his legs.  It also smelled fantastic - the booth, not the beard.  Because of my recent tea challenge, I was especially happy to find a local tea vendor! We chose Children’s Calma Te, a combination of lemon balm, lemon verbena, lavender, gota kola, and rose petals, which is supposed to calm and relax both children and adults; and Roobios, a sweet and nutty red tea that is reported to help with nervous tension, allergies, and asthma.

Like with produce, buying local herbs, spices, and teas means I’m getting a fresher, healthier product with no chemicals, preservatives, or additives.  I also have the producer right there in front of me, ready and willing to answer any questions I may have about the product.  It turns out, the maker and owner of New Mexico Herbs turned out to be the midwife who attended the HBAC (homebirth after cesarean) of my second child.  Talk about trusting your seller!

Local Meat

Our next vendor was not a planned stop on our journey, but one I was overjoyed to find.  We picked up some ground beef and a beautifully marbled chuck roast from Kate and the family-owned Maynard Cattle Co.  Her excitement in her product was beautifully tangible and refreshing.  She answered all of our questions about her beef (and we had many) and even delved into a huge spiral binder filled with a collection of mouthwatering recipes. 

Right outside the city I live in, there is a huge cattle ranch.  It smells horrible.  The cows are literally on top of each other; hundreds of them shoved together into small pens.  There is not one piece of green grass in sight.  The cows literally look sad, and it makes me sad every time I pass by.  I don’t even want to know what kind of steroids and antibiotics they are subjected to. 

The meat I bought from Kate at the farmers’ market is naturally raised and aged.  The ranch employs no concentrated feed lot conditions; cows eat quality grass, nothing artificial.  Cows are not subjected to any hormones, antibiotics, steroids, or animal by-products.  This meat really does come from happy cows! That makes me happy too.

Breastfeeding Awareness and Support

Our next stop was definitely the biggest surprise of the day.  Breastfeeding? At the Farmers’ Market? What huh?! That’s right.  My local W.I.C. office (an office I once thought synonymous with formula) had a booth set up with an overwhelming amount of breastfeeding information.  I walked up to the booth carrying my ten month old daughter, and was immediately showered with excitement, and a free bottle of cold water, when I told them I breastfeed on demand. 

I received a bumper sticker stating, “Affordable healthcare starts with breastfeeding,” and a “license to breastfeed,” which was a card small enough to stick in my wallet quoting the state laws concerning breastfeeding in public and pumping at work (section numbers and everything!).  I also took two of the many brochures: one was about knowing if a newborn is getting enough breastmilk and the other was a hardcore look at formula vs. breastmilk.  This brochure even admitted and denounced the fact that formula companies compete for “multi-million dollar contracts” with WIC clinics and bombard mothers with free coupons.

Local Honey

Cutting the refined, processed sugar out of my family's diet was one of my first steps to a healthier life and the local honey vendor was a major reason for our trip to the market.  Not only is honey a wonderfully sweet replacement for sugar, but many studies are now proving that the antioxidants found in natural honey have superior health benefits, including a reduced risk of heart disease and cancer.  Raw, local honey has been shown to significantly relieve symptoms due to allergic reactions and is the most nutritious way to consume honey because it contains all the natural enzymes and live pollens absent from processed honey.

Knowing how your honey is gathered is very important for utilizing the natural health benefits.  Buying locally makes it much easier to know how the honey has been processed.  This particular honey is strained, not filtered leaving as much of the natural occurring pollen grains as possible.

Handmade Soap

Our last visit was to one of the local soap makers.  We took advantage of the buy five, get the sixth free deal and found ourselves surrounded by addicting scents like lavender-sage, nag champa, oatmeal, milk-n-honey, coconut, and vanilla berry.   
Cutting out the chemicals in my life has meant significant changes to my personal hygiene products.  I've lived my whole life thinking I had dry skin, which meant a plethora of moisturizing soaps and lotions.  It turns out, those soaps and lotions were there very culprits making my skin so dry! In less than a month of using homemade soaps, I have all but eliminated my need for lotion.  And when I find that my skin is in need of some extra moisture, I use unrefined Shea butter, also available from New Mexico Soap.

I See a Theme Developing...

I plan on making my local farmers' market a weekly event.  So why shouldn't I make blogging about it a weekly event as well? Ok, I'm getting a little over ambitious there.  But I do want to make 'The Farmers' Market' a recurring theme here on my blog.  Maybe I'll start profiling individual vendors.  Maybe I'll have more crunchy 101 lessons to talk about.  Do you attend your local farmers' market? How do you utilize local merchants and how has it affected your health, family, and life? I would be ecstatic to have some guest bloggers talk about their experiences with local farmers' markets around the country.  Any takers? Hit me up on Facebook.


***This post was originally written under my previous blog name, Zen and the Art of Cloth Diaper Maintenance.***

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