The number of American farmers' markets continues to climb. (Photo via.)
Whether it's asking their local supermarket manager to please stock more produce grown close-to-home--and thus reduce the carbon footprint associated with their dinner plates--or visiting one of a growing number of farmers' markets cropping up around the country (see what we did there?!), Americans are voting with their wallets: clearly, they appreciate the superior fresh flavor and nutritive value of vegetables that spend as little time as possible in storage and transit.
Professional chefs are leading the way, too. As diners become more selective about the food they put on their own tables, so too are they asking for local-and-fresh when they go out to eat.
Chefs have long led the way when it comes to introducing new flavors and kicking off trends in cuisine--remember when the only kind of salad one could get at a steakhouse, say, was iceberg lettuce strewn with a few tough bits of tomato and drowned in Thousand Island dressing?
Creative cooks in forward-leaning regions--particularly those blessed with both the climate and terrain that supports a strong agricultural community, like northern California--helped introduce America to the range of delicious and wildly different salad greens we take for granted these days. The "Eat Local" movement is happening in large part because professionals led the way, one baby arugula salad with Meyer lemon vinaigrette at a time. It's only logical that diners would eventually want to make those fresh, unique salads themselves--hence, farmers' markets:
"Farmers markets are a critical ingredient to our nation's food system," USDA Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan said. "These outlets provide benefits not only to the farmers looking for important income opportunities, but also to the communities looking for fresh, healthy foods."
After 18 years of steady increases, the number of farmers markets across the country now registered with the USDA is 7,864. In 1994, there were 1,744. Organizations such as Slow Food, founded in 1989 to counter fast-food, junk-food lifestyles, first ignited consumer demand for fresh, local produce.