So we’re in the heart of summer. What better way to spend your time than to take a trip to your local farmer’s market? As an experienced farmer’s market girl, I highly recommend buying your produce straight from the farm. Prior work experience on a farm allowed me to witness and appreciate all of the hard work and dedication that goes into producing the most delicious food. What could be better than fresh, nutritious, local fruits and vegetables?
In addition, the farmers or their staff will answer potential questions you may have. They constantly share great recommendations on how to select, store, and cook the produce they sell. The produce is truly fresh; vine or tree-ripened to give you the best tasting, highest quality, and nutrient-packed fruits and veggies you’ve ever had. You know exactly who is growing your food and where it’s coming from. This reinforces the farm to table concept – from purchasing produce where it is grown to taking it home for a delicious meal or snack.
To add to the excitement, you get to try new things that you may have never had before – and many farms display samples! Some farms may offer the ‘You-Pick’ option; this is where farmers let you pick your own fruits and veggies. For example, the farm I worked at had you-pick strawberries, raspberries, and peaches! So fun – and great to get the kids involved. Sometimes they host other fun activities and events such as hay rides and pumpkin carvings. Many farms also accept SNAP and WIC benefits. Not only are you supporting local businesses and the economy, but you’re getting the family involved in a fun, interactive and educational activity. So whether you’re a regular or a newbie, take some time this summer to search for farmer’s markets near you to enjoy the amazing, fresh foods they have to offer.
Check out some additional tips below to get started!
1. Find your local farmer’s market using the Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food Compass Map. You can simply type in your zip code and mile distance and find farmer’s markets near you! http://www.usda.gov/maps/maps/kyfcompassmap.htm
2. Explore different areas – some farms may have different foods to offer than others. This way you get a variety and have the chance to see plenty!
3. Develop a relationship with the farmer! Ask the farmer questions and make that connection. It’s always a great feeling to talk to the one who works so hard to bring you the freshest food!
4. Bring your own re-usable bag and return the containers or baskets the produce are stocked in. This cuts down on unneccesary waste and the farmers can always reuse the containers – money saver!
5. The farm season generally lasts from April until late October, early November, but many often stay open year round if they have meats, dairy, winter produce, and other home-grown items.
6. You could become a member of a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture). This benefits both you and the farmer in many ways and ensures you’re getting fresh food year-round. Visit http://www.localharvest.org/csa/ to find out more information!
7. Visit some handy resources to find out more information and tips on farmer’s markets!
Written by: Shannon Erskine, Dietetic Intern/Liz Smith, OSU Extension
Reviewed by: Donna Green, Extension Educator, Family and Consumer Sciences, Ohio State University Extension, Erie County