Whether you ask a customer or a restaurant chef who regularly shops at farmers’ markets what is the first thing they think of with respect to farmers’ markets they say “freshness.” In getting to a grocery store produce is first picked in the fields, sent to distribution centers, trucked to supermarket, stored in refrigerated rooms, and set out when shelves need restocking. From field to checkout counter produce has, on average, spent days and traveled a 1000 plus miles.
With few exceptions, produce at farmers’ markets is picked the same day or within a day of the market. That is fresh!
Variety at grocery stores is usually quite limited. Here for example one might find one type of carrot, one kind of strawberry, and other products like kale might not be there at all. At the farmers’ markets there is considerable variety, e.g., several types of carrots (baby size to thick, orange, yellow, purple), four kinds of strawberries, several kales, e.g. Russian and Tuscan, etc. The combined area of the display tables of 40 to 50 farmers’ is much greater than the produce section of a grocery store.
There is really no comparison between the volume, variety, quality, and freshness of flowers at the farmers’ markets with what is found in a grocery store. Farmers markets are where to go if you like flowers. Except for greenhouse flowers like roses, the types of flowers one finds at the market vary with the season. In February and March there are fantastic tulips, and during the summer one finds tuberose, sunflowers, zinnias, and many more kinds of flowers.
As stated above produce travels over a thousand miles to get to a grocery store. Since ripe products like tomatoes, peaches, and strawberries are delicate and can not withstand the jostling that comes with transport, these products are picked while they are still hard. Feel a peach at the grocery store. Most are like a rock.
The longer it takes to get produce from fields to grocery shelves the greater the incidence of spoilage. To increase shelf life certain products like tomatoes destined for a grocery store are picked before they are ripe, given a fungicide bath, and refrigerated.