Published on April 17, 2023
From reducing food miles to minimizing waste, shopping locally at farmers markets can help you to improve your environmental footprint.
Farmers Markets around the world are becoming more and more popular as people are drawn to the fresh, local produce, the atmosphere, the live music, and the sense of community that these markets provide. What many people don’t know is that farmers markets are also a bustling hub of sustainability. Sustainability is an overarching theme of this system and some of these environmental benefits include:
The term food miles or food kilometers refers to the distance that food travels from the location where it is grown to the location where it is consumed. In other words, it’s the distance that food travels from farm to plate. When we purchase local food from farmers markets, it’s better for the environment because it reduces its food miles, thus producing fewer greenhouse gases from transportation. Additionally, local produce is often higher quality than food that is shipped across long distances, as vitamins and minerals in fruits and vegetables begin to degrade as soon as it’s picked.
“On average, food travels 2,500 km before it reaches our homes and depending on where the food comes from, transportation usually involves planes, trains, trucks or ships. By comparison, our furthest farmer at Evergreen Brick Works is only 205 km away! Less kilometres travelled means fewer greenhouse gases and fresher food for you and your family.”
– Chantal Stepa, Evergreen Brick Works Farmers Market Manager
Many of our vendors at the Saturday Farmers Market use certified organic farming practices:
Photo by: Al Yoshiki
Earth Haven Farm is a Demeter certified farm, which means that they do everything necessary to be organic certified, but by utilizing practices of biodynamic farming. As a First Nations person that grew up in the urban city, farming with biodynamic principles was a way for Aric Aguonie to reconnect with his cultural roots, the cosmos, vitality and the environment. Biodynamic agriculture is both regenerative and organic and focuses on enhancing the life processes of nature. Biodynamic certification is considered the highest standard around the world, with just 15 farms certified in Canada.
“My job is growing soil. Without healthy soil there is no foreseeable health for humanity, animals or the planet. Here at Earth Haven Farm, I utilize all plant and animal waste to create healthy compost which is spread out on the land and used to start my seedlings. Healthy soil feeds the pastures that feed my cows and the gardens that feed my customers. It is an ecosystem — a very delicate ecosystem that I honour and respect. In biodynamic agriculture the whole farm is considered. Everything is connected.”
– Earth Haven Farm
The farm is also surrounded by forest/trees, which protects it from blow over of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) that might be used on neighbouring farms.
Earth Haven Farm is currently hosting their second annual Food Sovereignty Project event, in which the goal is to grow food, seeds, knowledge and community while contributing to developing food sovereignty. Learn more about this event here.
Photo by: Al Yoshiki
In an effort to reduce their environmental footprint, Buschbeck Farm focuses on closing the loop by utilizing the whole lamb in the products that they sell, including the meat as well as the fibre. They also encourage customers to try different parts of the lamb that they might not otherwise be interested in purchasing.
Buschbeck Farm have been practicing regenerative farming for over 30 years. When the pandemic hit, they also moved over to an order-based system. This allowed them to only process what is needed and then sell any unordered parts of the animal at the Farmers Market. This has meant that they don’t end up with extras that go into the freezer and are always able to offer fresh products to their customers.
Farmers markets generally create less plastic waste than big box stores and are great places to shop at if you’re looking to decrease your plastic waste production. Most items aren’t packaged in plastic, and you can simply bring your reusable bag to put items in when shopping.
At the Saturday Farmers Market at Evergreen Brick Works, you can also check out Muuse. Muuse allows users to borrow cups, containers and insulated bags for free by simply scanning the items QR code with their phone, a quick 30 second sign-up (no app download!) and just like that, you’re reducing waste! Return the items at the Brick Works during the Farmers Market or at 50 other locations around the city.
“For the last year Muuse has been providing free reusable cups and takeout containers for market goers. In that time visitors have borrowed over 3,200 items, that’s a lot of cups diverted from landfill! Muuse is easy to get started, now you don’t even have to download an app, you simply scan the item you wish to borrow, sign-up and you’ve got 30 days to return at over 50 locations across Toronto!”
Many vendors at the Farmers Market also opt for more sustainable forms of packaging such as paper and have take back and reuse options. Here’s a list of some of our vendors at the Saturday Farmers Market that have returnable containers and use ecofriendly packaging:
Farmers markets are not only environmentally friendly, but they also support the local economy and local small businesses. The Saturday Farmers Market at Evergreen Brick Works is open from 9am – 1pm every Saturday during the indoor winter season and from 8am – 1pm every Saturday during the outdoor summer season.