When I think about the average college meal, a microwave and a freezer is almost always involved. I understand college students are more likely than not buying their groceries on a budget, and shopping at the farmers market doesn’t sound like it’s cost effective. But it, in fact, can be! People often end up paying more money at a grocery store for lower quality and quantity food when they could be shopping at the farmers markets and buying the healthiest food they can. 

It may sound expensive, but it’s actually quite affordable! Just this past weekend, I purchased six large carrots for only $1, a price I definitely wouldn’t be able to find anywhere else. It’s farmers markets that have larger bundles of vegetables for a cheaper price — and much higher quality. Farmers markets are great ways to shop on a budget and get locally-grown produce you won’t find  anywhere else.

Shopping at a Saturday farmers market can be a source of inspiration and a great way to buy unique items. One of my favorite things about the farmers market is seeing all the different fruits and vegetables on display, as well as the stalls offering sauces, baked goods and other obscure items. The offerings range from nutritious fruits and vegetables, like wild foraged mushrooms, to honeycombs straight from the hive and sunflower heads ready for oven roasting. You never know what you may find!

Another amazing quality of shopping at farmers markets is the in-season produce. Nothing beats the taste of freshly harvested and in-season food. While Oregon has a shorter growing season than other states, the shorter season can often mean a higher quality of food and intensity of flavor, according to The Spruce Eats. The Spruce Eats is a reference for would-be chefs when searching for in-season produce.I In-season crops are picked at their peak ripeness and are often grown locally, whereas out-of-season produce is often picked early and transported long distances before reaching your plate. While there isn’t anything wrong with that, nothing beats the taste of perfectly ripe fruits and vegetables. 

Some fruits in season right now are a variety of berries, melons and grapes, as well as vegetables like carrots, green beans, corn and tomatoes. If you’re like me and have made an effort to learn to cook while in college, the farmers market is an amazing place to decide where to start. I recommend picking vegetables in season and dedicating the season to experimenting with different recipes. You wouldn’t go shopping for bathing suits in the winter, so why buy food any differently?

After walking up and down the market and buying all my fresh fruits and in-season vegetables, I always leave some room in my reusable bag for Lady Bread Bakery. Coming all the way from Coos Bay, Oregon, these outrageously delicious recipes are by Jen Harvey, who calls herself a true Irish Italian “Bakester” (which, according to Lady Bread’s website, is the feminine pronoun for a baker from the 1950’s). This bread is inspiring. Just one bite of her turmeric bread had me planning a charcuterie board.

Her stall includes breads with loaves ranging from her Captain’s Crust Sourdough bread to artichoke and garlic. My personal favorite is the Tuscan loaf, composed of tomatoes, garlic and basil. This bread is truly one-of-a-kind, and there is always a line of people waiting to buy Harvey’s bread.

On top of her delicious bread, she has quite the variety of baked goods, like cookies, muffins and a “Cinna-Monster.” And, if you’re wondering, yes, I did purchase the “Cinna-Monster” and, yes, it is as big as it sounds.

I encourage you to experience all Eugene’s farmers markets have to offer. Either stop by the Saturday Market on East Fifth Avenue from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturdays, or head to the Park Blocks on Eighth Avenue and Oak Street on Tuesdays from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. There are many benefits to shopping from your local market like saving money, eating healthy and so many more!

Opinion Columnist

Lauren is an opinion columnist for the Daily Emerald. She is a third-year advertising student at UO. She is a Bay Area native with a strong passion for healthy food, digital art and creative writing.