Local Markets - The Heart of Health and Community

Last weekend I had the privilege of being invited to the Prospero Market in Stratford, Taranaki. All my life I’ve loved the buzz and the community feel of local markets. No matter where you go in the world, you can be certain to find one and Taranaki, with it’s variety of options is no exception.

The Prospero Market was beautifully organized by my friend Moana Hancock who has a passion for make healthy eating accessible to the people of Stratford as well as showcasing all the variety that it already has.

I was blown away by the abundance of offerings at the market and the quality of the stalls and the food they produced. Everything was so professionally done and the shoppers were enjoying the variety and community feel that surrounded them.

From pickled garlic to fresh grapes to bliss balls. There was something for everyone.

As I said, we we’re very lucky here in Taranaki with the Taranaki Farmers Market on Sundays in New Plymouth as well Prospero on the last Saturday of the month. There’s also the Mill and Seaside markets which will sometimes have local produce as well. And if you can't get to a market, HokoLoko can bring the market to you!

So why bother hunting out farmers markets or even local produce in general? So many reasons!

1. When you shop locally for your fruits and veggies that automatically means you're eating mainly seasonal produce– giving you products at their peak, not just for flavour but for nutritional density as well. They are just fresher and tastier!

2. They allow for more variety. Since frequenting my local farmers market I’ve been introduced to foods I didn’t even know existed and have been able to try new recipes and flavours. That’s because when we choose to eat locally we increase the diversity of the foods. This may not seem like it would be the case however those fruits and veggies that are transported worldwide are often the ones that are “most popular” and don’t always represent the extent of the fresh foods available from that country. Variety in your diet means a variety of nutrients - for the win!

3. Eating locally grown veggies and fruit means that they taste better! Eating a food straight from the plant is both delicious and makes the fruit/veg less susceptible to bruising and rot. What producers do to prevent this from happening to foods that travel long distances is often to harvest the plant before it reaches it’s ripeness so that it can whist and the long distances but in doing so, decreases not only its nutritional value but the full flavour potential as well.

4. While not always the case, often purchasing from local producers means that you save money as they don't have the huge overheads that larger growers have to consider.

5. Lastly, buying locally helps strengthen your sense of community and local economy. There is nothing better, in my opinion then being able to hand money directly to the person who worked so hard to grow and prepare the food. It also creates jobs and ensures that green spaces are being preserved locally. It encourages you to get out more, to talk to others, to get off the iPhone and shake some hands and look someone in the eye. Connection is something that many of us in today's fast-paced society are lacking.

For those of you outside of Taranaki there is sure to be some form of Farmers market near you. Ask your local community office, search online or just get out and see.

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