The Brookside Farmers' Market Matters to My Health & Wellness

Cheryl Birkey, Personal Trainer

As a personal trainer and passionate advocate for health and wellness, I embrace a healthy lifestyle that includes regular workouts and thoughtful food choices. The Brookside Farmers’ Market plays a significant role in helping me make those food choices while also helping me do what I can to positively impact the environment.

The Brookside Farmers’ Market is “an organic, local, vendor-only market,” according to the market’s website. “Producers use organic, sustainable and cruelty-free practices, travel less than 100 miles to market, and those who grow, raise or make every product are the ones who sell it to you directly. Many veggies even come from KC’s urban farms!”

To me, the Brookside Farmers’ Market is more than a place to shop and snack. It’s where I go to connect with my local farmers and really understand where my food comes from. I eat local, organic produce and meat when I can, and knowing these people who grow my food matters. Their farms are within a couple hours of the market, and I know they take the care to grow their food in an environmentally sustainable way, adhering to organic practices.

I’ve always thought of myself as an environmentally conscious person, but my awareness of various environmental issues--and my resolve to help solve them--has increased in the last few years. That’s yet another reason why shopping locally at the Brookside Farmers’ Market is so important to me. Food that travels less than two hours to reach my table has a much smaller impact on the environment, as well as the highest nutritional value compared to food that’s imported from another country or a far-away state. By supporting (and knowing) local farmers who follow organic practices, I can help reduce carbon dioxide emissions and farming practices that I disagree with or can’t trust.

The farmers that sell at the Brookside Farmers’ Market allow their produce to ripen in the sun in order to reach its crispiest or juiciest potential and also retain the highest level of antioxidants possible. Then they harvest the produce all week and sell it Saturday morning at its peak freshness.

The Brookside Farmers’ Market also gives me an opportunity to eat with the seasons, which further supports the environment. Early in the market season, the farmers provide patrons with many varieties of leafy greens, which are abundant in early spring when the weather is mild enough to support this delicate produce.

Right now, you can find asparagus, beets and strawberries at the market and as we head into even hotter weather, we’ll see lots of organic tomatoes and juicy watermelons. Pro tip: meat and eggs are available year-round. Farmers growing seasonal produce means that this produce can grow without pesticides and genetic modification, preventing toxic compounds from ending up in our bodies, the soil or water supplies.

Eating with the seasons also makes sense for good health. The abundant root vegetables available in the colder months warm our bodies, while the leafy greens in spring allow us to shed our winter weight for a lighter cuisine conducive to hotter months and increased activity. Conventionally grown produce that’s available year-round at grocery stores has diminished our understanding of and appreciation for truly seasonal produce, but by regularly shopping at the Brookside Farmers’ Market, you can embrace the bounty of each season.

Plus, buying raw produce and meat from the market demands that I cook at home often, avoiding the abundance of oily, processed and fried foods that are typically high in salt and sugar and lurk on most restaurant menus.

There’s another health benefit to visiting the market every Saturday: the positivity that comes from community. I see my neighbors when I’m there and I chat with farmers, practices that support the community-building I believe in. More recently, the Brookside Farmers’ Market has played a key role in enabling another one of my passions: reducing single-use plastic. I launched Boomerang Bags at the Brookside Farmers’ Market in 2017 and, every Saturday, you can usually find me chatting with patrons about plastic and other environmental issues while handing out reusable cloth bags that they can use in lieu of plastic bags.

Local, seasonal, organic produce, purchased from hardworking hands and then put into a reusable cloth bag is my idea of the perfect Saturday. I hope I see you there soon. The market is open every Saturday from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the corner of Wornall Road and 63rd Street in Kansas City, Mo.

Learn more about Cheryl!

Cheryl Birkey