Summer is high season and a great time to support local farmers markets by choosing from their selection of locally produced vegetables and fruits picked at their ripest. Also available are meats, fish, artisanal products such as preserves, honey and maple syrup, freshly baked items, herbs and cut flowers!
The delight in shopping at the market is the opportunity to directly build a relationship with local farmers and vendors, and where you can discover a variety of foods and tips. Farmers are happy to share recipes on how to prepare a vegetable you may not recognize or have previously tried. Get to know your local farmers and producers --ask what will be available in the following week, make a request.
Pose questions to the grower about their practices whether it is organic or sustainably grown. Understand the differences between cage-free and free-range, grass-fed and hormone free. Ask about the use of pesticides.
Here is a list of helpful terms to understand growing practices and start a dialogue --
Locally-Grown: agricultural products produced and sold within a region.
Sustainable Agriculture: agriculture that is humane and environmentally sound including practices like pasturing of animals; creating diversified farms; reducing or avoiding the use of chemicals, seed genetically modified organisms (GMO), growth hormones and antibiotics.
Certified Organic: certified to be in adherence to USDA National Organic Program standards.
Certified Naturally Grown: certified by certifednaturallygrown.org, grown or produced without chemicals.
Cage-Free: eggs laid by hens that weren't confined in small cages.
Free-Range: animals have access to pasture; hay or grass silage.
Grass-Fed: animals spend the bulk of their time on pasture eating a natural diet.
Antibiotic/Hormone-Free: animals are not given antibiotics to prevent disease or hormones to increase growth production.
Integrated Pest Management: pest management that reduces the use of chemical pesticides, the application at the lowest levels only when needed.
Artisanal: produced by hand in small batches.
Heirloom: plant varieties handed down through generations, developed for particular traits.
Supporting local farms presents the opportunity to eat freshly harvested foods that are tastier and higher in nutritional value plus rich in antioxidants.
Purchasing locally grown food is better for the environment by ensuring green spaces, restoring the ecosystem and reducing carbon emissions with a positive impact on our health.
It strengthens the local economy by creating a market for growers to feed our community.
Without the cost of processing and packaging, local growers are able to grow a variety of crops throughout the growing season.
Summer fruits include berries and stone fruit (apricots, plums, peaches).
Vegetables include a variety of lettuces and greens such as spinach, kale, collards, mustard and chard along with green beans, broccoli, beets, cabbage, carrots, eggplant, peppers, potatoes, onions, radishes, summer squash, sweet corn and tomatoes. Each week yields a new harvest.
A trip to the market is a community gathering of people, food, and music.
It is an opportunity to teach children about eating fresh seasonal food, plan a meal around what is in season.
Be sure to arrive early for the best selection and remember to bring your reusable bags!