Feature photo: joi/Above photo: Natalie Maynor
Nancy Harder gives 8 ways to help out your local farmers market.

I love farmers markets. The menagerie of colorful veggies and fruits makes me giddy, plus there is some great people-watching.

Catching a second of convo with the farmers makes it all the better; I swear it makes the food taste more delicious when you know where, how, and by whom it was grown. And the food definitely tastes better when it’s seasonal, grown locally, and doesn’t make the usual 1500 mile sprint from farm to mouth.

There’s been a tipping point recently in the interest in farmers markets and local food. Supporting local farmers markets is key in the slow food movement. If you’re passionate about fresh food, local agriculture, or want to just get involved with your community, here are 8 fun ways to get involved in your local farmers market.

1. Volunteer at the farmers market.

Visit LocalHarvest to find farmers markets in your area.  On-site volunteers keep most farmers markets running smoothly. Volunteers staff the farmers market’s table, greet shoppers, conduct surveys, sign up new volunteers, and help with EBT programs. Contact your local market manager for need and details.

Photo: empracht
2. Volunteer for community food system projects.

For example, my hood of Wilmington, NC, has something called Feast on the Southeast. This community food system project works to increase the sale of local farm products and access to affordable food. Many communities also have similarly effective initiatives that improve the partnership with small farms and improve access to local produce.

3. Buy from your local market.

Especially try to visit in the shoulder seasons when sales are at their lowest. Buying from the market is economical, mighty tasty, and great for the environment. If everyone in the US ate just one very local meal per week the national annual usage would be reduced by 57.2 million barrels, according to Steven L. Hopp, professor of environmental science at Emory and Henry (and husband of Barbara Kingsolver).

4. Experiment with different recipes.

I get more and more passionate about local fresh produce as I try new recipes, eat, and repeat. Read slow food gurus like Barbara Kingsolver and Alice Waters or visit food blogs for recipes and ideas. Impress friends with homemade bread and cheese made from local flour and milk.

5. Support restaurants that use local produce.

Notice the chefs hanging out at your local market and do some online searches (including within your local community food system website) to find restaurants that support local farms and plan menus around fresh seasonal produce.

Photo: gmnonic
6. Offer to be a social media specialist.

You can help create a Facebook and Twitter account, set up a Google or Yahoo group, even start and update a blog for farmers markets and outreaches. Get friends involved and make the weekly market a place to catch up and hang out.

7. Volunteer on farms.

Try WWOOF-ing (World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms). You can search for organic farms in your community and abroad to work on in exchange for lodging and sometimes food. Check out Matador’s First-Timers Guide to WWOOF-ing and 4 Questions to Ask Before WWOOF-ing for more info. You can also connect with local farms and outreaches that sponsor co-op, work study, and short-term volunteer programs.

8. Use your own blog or Matador blog.

Write about your experiences with farmers markets around the world, WWOOF-ing, what makes your local market a unique travel place, and beautiful narratives about the ecstasy of fresh produce.

Community Connection:

Know of any other ways to help out farmers markets? Please share! Want to do more research? Check out this great resource for six locavore websites.