Have Fun. Live Better. Shop Local.

I am probably a rare breed of person who looks forward to grocery shopping. It’s scheduled in every Saturday morning and is a non-negotiable event- other things either get pushed back or I’ll wake up early at the ungodly hour (on a Saturday, at least) of 7 am to fit it in.

Okay, by now you’ve figured out I’m not talking about a morning trip to Walmart or Publix. Possibly my favorite day of the week is my Saturday trip to the Sarasota Farmer’s Market.

The SRQ Farmer’s Market is a weekly celebration of why small businesses are what define a community. A recluse the other six days of the week on Saturday’s I’ve realized I’m starting to make connections and support entrepreneurs in the community. I make small talk at the gluten-free stand, find delicious health foods such as kale, bread made with less than four ingredients and exchange jokes with “the candle stand guy”. Next week the local cheese vendor has even offered to show me how to make fresh mozzarella. After a few weeks of shopping in the open sunshine with live music drifting over the vegetable stand as the smell of fresh made empanadas tempt me towards an indulgent breakfast I’ve come to realize that normal supermarkets make me feel claustrophobic.

But the real reason that keeps me coming back to the market week after week is the great feeling that I’m helping the community to thrive. Almost every stand at the farmers market is a local business. You’d be surprised at what you can find. There’s everything from candles to salsa to silverware and even eco-friendly clothing.

(Above: Entrepreneurship at its finest. A group of teenagers has created a local following by performing at the local market each week. There instruments are made entirely of garbage)

Why you should seek out a local business over a corporation for your next shopping trip:

  1. Job Security: According to the SBA, more than 99 percent of jobs are created by small businesses. By supporting small businesses you are keeping your neighbors employed.
  2. Environmentalism: Buying fruits and veggies from a local farm reduces the CO2 emmissions made by trucks shipping food across hundreds of miles. Items purchased at local businesses also often have less packaging that will just end up in the waste bin.
  3. Community Dollars: More than half of the money spent at a local business ends up back in the community. Whether that’s the business working with other local businesses, hiring local citizens or donating to local causes (love the gift basket at your Drama Club’s Silent auction? Thank a local business).
  4. Quality: I know exactly what’s in the food I buy at the farmer’s market (many five ingredients or less, and I can pronounce them all!). Food made with love just tastes better. Plus there’s the fabric stand that sells handmade aprons and napkins are made to last a lifetime. Can you say that about your mass produced linens?
Sarasota and Manatee Counties are full of vibrant Farmer’s Markets providing you the opportunity to support local businesses. Every Saturday morning from 9am until 2pm in the afternoon the Bradenton Farmer’s Market brings a colorful array of vendors, artists and street performers to Old Main Street. Further south the Venice Farmer’s Market sets up shop Fridays from 7-11am. 

For more information on the importance of shopping local visit this page from Sustainable Connections.

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