When it comes to cooking, a lot of Americans are going back to basics, using fresh produce from local farms. One result: Farmers markets, a common sight 100 years ago, have been making a comeback across the U.S.
The number of farmers markets nationwide has more than doubled in the past 10 years, to over 8,000. We spoke to Dana Garner Boyle, who runs her family’s produce farm and sells at a dozen farmers markets, about why Americans are taking a greater interest in what they eat.
Why are Americans buying more local, farm-fresh produce today?
I see an increase in health concerns and environmental concerns. People are interested in knowing where their food comes from and how it was grown. But I also think there is a growing desire to buy local and live off the land.
Is this a new phenomenon?
No. It reflects a deep tradition that may have become lost in some areas with the convenience of packaged foods, but that is now gaining popularity again in many places.
Farmers markets have a reputation for catering to affluent urban areas. Would you agree?
We see markets gaining popularity everywhere. More and more people want fresh, local and safe food. They want to know where and how it was grown and who grew it. Part of that is a growing interest in supporting small family farms and knowing the farmers.
How is that trend affecting the agricultural industry in the U.S.?
I market my goods directly to consumers and therefore know firsthand what their needs are. And those needs are changing. I think larger farms are eventually going to have to adapt.
Can local organic farms meet all the food needs of a diverse society?
No. We only have one local organic farm in our area. Some places don’t have any at all. So there is certainly a large role for conventional farms, say, for schools and hospitals that want to serve fresh fruits and vegetables but aren’t near an organic farm.
The holidays are around the corner, and that means more cooking. What is your favorite vegetable dish?
Brussels sprouts with balsamic vinegar, blue cheese and cranberries.