Around this time of year, you might notice more local fruit and vegetable stands popping up around your neighborhood. This is also a good time of year for the local Farmers Market. But is there really that much of a difference between these local growers and your neighborhood grocery store? These are just some of the reasons why it’s important to shop at the Farmers Market.First of all, you’ll notice a definite difference in flavor. The produce you’ll find at the Farmers Market is fresh from the field to you. There’s no shipping process, no storage, and no artificial ripening processes. This is just sun-ripened, field-fresh fruits and vegetables for you to enjoy. Along these same lines, Farmers Market food is also seasonal. This means you can look forward to fruits and vegetables in their natural season, while also enjoying the freshest ones around. Another huge benefit is supporting the local economy. Many small farms struggle, as big business models dominate the agricultural industry. The farmers you meet at the market are your neighbors, trying to make a living selling fresh, healthy food. Buying directly from them gives them more support and encourages them to keep growing! You can also chat with them to learn more about your food, including some of their secrets to cooking with their produce.One of the secondary benefits is the reduced resources in getting your fruits and vegetables. Did you know that food in the U.S. travels an average of 1,500 miles to get to you? That’s a lot of gas and other natural resources, which adds to pollution and includes extra trash with all the packaging that goes into it. Meanwhile, the Farmers Market features foods grown more naturally, with much less distance and resources involved in reaching you.If you’re a fan of organic, natural food, then that’s just another reason to choose Farmers Markets. Much of traditional grocery store food is processed, and is grown using, pesticides, hormones, antibiotics, or genetic modification. While it’s being shipped, it can also be gassed, irradiated, or waxed. However, most food at the Farmers Market has minimal processing, and it’s grown with sustainable, natural techniques. A major perk of these markets is the variety you’ll find there. A Farmers Market is a great place to discover new things, like red carrots, purple cauliflower, watermelon radishes, quail eggs, and so much more! It’s also a fun place to bring your kids, letting the whole family try new things, while also staying healthy. Finally, Farmers Markets promote humane treatment of animals. You’ll be able to get meats, cheeses, and eggs that were raised without hormones or antibiotics, from animals fed green grass and natural diets. These animals will also have lived a more free life, avoiding the cramped cages and pens of typical animal agriculture.Hopefully, this is enough to convince you to give your local Farmers Market a try. If you’re still on the fence, it’s important to know that many of them now accept credit cards, SNAP benefits, and other nutritional programs! This makes it that much easier to shop fresh and locally.D.J. Martino is a Grant Writing Assistant at Primary Health Network; he joined PHN in November 2012. He holds a Bachelor’s Degree in English from Thiel College and a Master of Arts in Creative Writing from Southern New Hampshire University. Outside of work, D.J. enjoys gaming (video, tabletop, and cards) and hanging out with friends, and he is currently trying to publish his first fantasy fiction novel!