By Martin Brossman
Recently my friend David Williams, a professional photographer, was going out to shoot a photo series on North Carolina farmers markets. He invited me to go along with him to several outdoor markets near Raleigh, NC and I jumped at the opportunity. I really enjoy the social atmosphere and the colorful displays of produce at the local farmers markets that bring back great memories created in my childhood.
Growing up in Washington, D.C., I enjoyed frequent family trips to Allentown, PA to visit my grandparents, visits which always included a shopping trip to the large indoor farmers market there. It was a special time for me to spend with my father and grandfather. In fact wherever we traveled, my father loved to stop to buy fruit and vegetables at roadside stands. I learned at a young age how much better the farm fresh local produce tasted compared to the produce shipped long distances to the supermarkets.
Healthy savings for you and the environment
When you think about how far most food travels before it reaches our plates, the distance and method by which it reaches us often creates more pollution. By buying local, you not only reduce transportation costs, you also reduce packaging and the amount of preservatives that may need to be used to preserve the “freshness” of your food.
Locally grown food tastes better because it’s fresher compared to food that is shipped long distances, and fresher means better nutritional value. This means that from farm to table, you’re looking at consuming food that is the closest thing to picked-fresh, other than growing it yourself. When you buy local, your food tends to keep longer in the refrigerator—and the prices at the farmers markets can be noticeably lower than at most grocery stores.
In recent years, there has been an emerging trend pointing toward the increasing popularity of local farmers markets and most recently, urban farms. It seems as though more people are interested in purchasing fresh food products directly from the source. In August 2012, the USDA listed more than 7,800 farmers markets in their National Farmers Market Directory and reports show the numbers are rising.
Make a difference with Social Media
From my experience in teaching social media marketing across North Carolina, I have learned that “Buy Local” is the catch phrase used to encourage us to purchase locally grown produce, and that “Shop Local” is the term for encouraging us to shop and dine with local merchants. Both of these actions have the same goal: to keep money in the local community. If you are enthused about helping your local economy, one way to promote it is to emphasize good local shopping experiences on social media sites that you use. And to use the hashtag #buylocal or #shoplocal accordingly to direct attention to your posts.
Since we live in a world of social media, we can truly make a difference talking about these things online. We can post pictures or short videos of our farmers market shopping experiences on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest and Foursquare, to name a few. For example, if you find a wonderful local honey that helps your allergies, you can take a picture of it and post the location of the farmers market where you bought it. Sharing your successful shopping experiences online tells your friends that you value buying local.
Fun, education and family bonding
When you purchase food locally, it enables you to have a relationship with the farmer who produces your food and who can tell you exactly how your food is grown, processed and harvested. You can ask questions and often get samples to taste.
On my photo adventure day with David, I met a husband and wife at one of the market booths selling all types of products related to honey, from beeswax and candles to big jars of unfiltered honey. Their newborn baby was there with them and they were happily doing business. At all the farmers markets we visited, it was impressive to see the many families both shopping together and working together as vendors.
Think about turning your shopping trip into a teaching opportunity. The kids can learn that certain crops are seasonal and that their favorite strawberries taste amazingly better direct from the local strawberry farm. They can taste fresh-made apple cider in the Fall, and discover the year-round variety of vegetables —and maybe even eat some! So round up your family and head out to make some memories at a farmers market this week, and remember to share a picture and caption on social media—with the hashtag #buylocal.
Martin Brossman is a leading authority on social media and online marketing. He is a business coach, consultant and a dynamic trainer known for his insight and humor. A member of the National Speakers Bureau, Martin is a popular speaker on social media topics. He teaches at North Carolina community college Small Business Centers throughout the state.