Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald


Health benefits and hipster points at Farmer’s Market

Last Saturday marked the return of the country’s largest producer-only farmers’ market to Capital Square, making the local food movement hard to miss in Madison. Waking up early on a Saturday morning to buy fresh produce is a weekly ritual for many, but many of us college students may wonder, “What’s the point”? If you simply don’t get the appeal behind the local food movement, read below to find out the clear benefits you can reap on your next trip to the Square.

Benefit 1: Local produce is fresher, and fresher produce retains more vitamins and minerals.

The nutrient content in fruits and vegetables degrades following harvest. Water soluble vitamins, like B-Vitamins and Vitamin C, are especially prone to degradation the longer the produce sits in storage. Vitamin and mineral losses during a week of storage can range from 15-80 percent depending on the specific fruit or vegetable and the storage temperature.


Because local produce has a shorter transit time from the harvest to point-of-sale, these fruits and vegetables are more likely to retain their nutrient status than the produce sitting in the grocery aisles.

Benefit 2: Local produce can be riper and may reach higher initial levels of vitamins and minerals.

Many fruits and vegetables destined for the supermarket are harvested while they are immature, so they are allowed to ripen during the shipping process. Although outward signs of ripening occur, these vegetables and fruits will not be able to develop their full vitamin and mineral potential.

Local produce is usually allowed to fully ripen on the vine and then is harvested at the peak of maturity. This extra ripening time allows for all vitamins and minerals to fully develop, and also can contribute to greater flavor depth and development.

Benefit 3: You know how the product is grown and processed.

If you are looking for organic or pesticide-free food, look no further than the Dane County Farmers’ Market. A producer-only market means the person behind the table directly represents the farm the product came from and can tell you about how that fruit or vegetable was raised.

Remember the definition of “local” only guarantees the geographical location of the food. The product is not necessarily organic or pesticide-free. Maybe you want to make sure no pesticides were used in the growing of your apple? Just ask! Want to know if the beef you’re buying is grass or corn fed? Ask again! One of the greatest benefits of from the producer-only market is you really know where your food is coming from.

This transparency can work in your favor in other ways as well. Interested in trying a new vegetable, but you don’t know how to cook it? Want to know how to tell when a certain fruit is ripe? Ask the farmer for tips.

Benefit 4: Your purchases stimulate the local economy.

Of the average $600 billion that American spend annually on food, only about 7 percent goes back to the local economy. The rest of our food dollars go to packaging companies, global distributors, wholesalers, truckers and other transporters.

When you buy local produce you help local farmers by giving them a bigger return on their product. Up to 90 percent of money spent on locally grown food can go directly back into the pocket of the farmer to help sustain their business.

New research shows the value of these dollars in fact reaches far beyond the farmer. A recent study by Iowa State University found that Iowa Farmers’ Market Association contributed $20 million to sales and another $12 million to indirect economic activity through shoppers visiting other local vendors and service providers.

Benefit 5: Buying local produce minimizes your carbon footprint.

If you care about the environment, you can feel good about choosing to buy local. Local food has less distance to travel, which means that less gasoline is burned to get the fruits and vegetables from the farm to your table.

By choosing to shop at the Dane County Farmers’ Market you can further minimize your environmental impact by walking to the market instead of driving to the store, and by using a reusable tote to cart your produce home instead of plastic bags.

Be sure to take at least one Saturday morning before the semester is over to enjoy one of Madison’s finest traditions and reap all the benefits of buying local produce! For more information about the market go to or write in your question to the column at [email protected].

This week’s recipe is a spring vegetable dish full of in-season vegetables that you can find at the Dane County Farmers’ Market.

Steamed Spring Vegetables


1 tablespoons butter

1/2 cup onions, thinly sliced

1.5 cups fresh asparagus, cut into 1-inch pieces

1/2 cup fresh carrots, peeled and cut into 1/4-inch coins

1/2 cup fresh snow peas, stemmed

1/2 cup frozen artichokes

1/2 cup water

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup frozen green peas

1/4 cup thinly sliced green scallion tops

Black pepper, to taste


  1. Heat butter in a large, deep saut? pan over medium-high heat. Carefully add onions; saute until browned, about 3-5 minutes. Remove pan from heat. (Can be prepared to this point a couple of hours ahead.)

  2. Add asparagus, carrots, snow peas, artichokes, salt and 1/2 cup water to pan. Return to high heat; cover and cook until vegetables start to steam. Steam, covered, until almost tender, about five minutes. Add peas; continue to steam until vegetables are just tender, about one minute longer. Stir in scallion tops, and season with pepper to taste. Enjoy!

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