Marketplaces have been a pivotal place of trade for millennia. They converge the commerce of a town to a single point, bringing people together from every corner of agriculture and craft. Such an environment promotes trade and sales, leading to a richer and prospering community.
Before mass-production and long-distance freight became the norm, farmers relied on local consumers to sell their produce. Without them, there would certainly be an abundance of food waste and the farmers would lose large amounts of income.
What most people are unaware of, however, is that outside the Western world, a huge percentage of agriculture comes in the form of small-scale farms. They do not have the capacity or workforce necessary to sell outside their region, and thus the local markets are their best opportunity.
It is thereby imperative that local people attend the markets and buy goods in this way. Not only are they supporting the farmers and contributing to the economy, they are also endorsing the consumption of fresh and healthy produce.
Perhaps this is the principal issue. In order to satisfy the requirements of mass-production, large commercial farms utilise chemicals and pesticides that help with growth and prevent the attack of insects. While this may be beneficial for large crop yields, it diminishes the quality and can even be harmful to our consumption. This greatly impacts our own health and well-being and should not be taken lightly.
Following in the footsteps of organisations such as the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and the World Health Organization (WHO), we need to encourage the scrutiny of what we consume and understand how it affects us. For instance, WHO continually develops risk assessments and educates people on the importance of food safety, having published their ‘Five keys to growing safer fruits and vegetables’ in 2012.
Focus also needs to be placed on the issue of food security. When something detrimental occurs at a large commercial farm, the repercussions are great. The loss of a large plantation can effectively send a region into famine. This is less concerning when the affected farms are small, as the surrounding farms will be able to cover the losses.
In terms of health, it is also important to eat a wide variety of food in order to fulfil our body’s nutritional requirements. Marketplaces offer this diversity and are therefore excellent centres of food commerce. You can generally find handpicked fruits, vegetables and nuts, preserved delicacies such as dates and olives, free-range meats, wines and cheeses, among others.
With such a large selection of goods and an even wider range of merchants, markets allow the consumer to choose their products wisely. In order to stay competitive, costs are low and the quality high; otherwise there would be no business. Haggling further attributes to this, aiming to keep vendors honest in this cut-throat business.
While such methods of bargaining may seem intimidating and pointless, it actually causes a proliferation in the sense of community as the people come to trust and make friendships with each other.
Through their capacity to generate healthy produce, provide food security, augment the economy and create a sense of community, it is evident that marketplaces are of great value in our society.