The Farmers Market
We recently began selling some of our garden produce at our local farmers’ market, with the goal of raising funds for our donation garden. Over and over we have been asked questions like, “where is your farm?” and, “did you grow this yourself?” The answer to the first is “We don’t have one, but our garden is in our backyard in Powder Springs.” And to the second, “Yes!”
Buying Local Produce
It’s important to many of the patrons of farmers’ markets to know that they are buying locally produced, seasonal produce. That’s the whole point of going to the farmers’ market! Interestingly however, not all vendors at all markets grow their own. It’s not uncommon for some vendors to buy wholesale from the same suppliers that restaurants and small grocery stores buy from. The only benefit in buying this produce at the farmers’ market is that you get to be outside.
How Do You Know
If you really want to be sure you are getting seasonal, local produce you must be a savvy customer. First of all, you should know a little about what you are about to purchase. Does it grow in your local climate? At what time is it commonly available? At what time is it possibly available?
We live in Georgia, where sweet potatoes are grown far and wide. However, this heat loving crop requires a minimum of ninety days to grow before harvest. Furthermore, it takes a minimum of a week for the tubers to cure after harvest before they are marketable. Doing the math, nowhere in the northern half of this state should “local” sweet potatoes be available before mid-August. If you see them at a farmers’ market around Memorial Day or even Independence Day, they are not local. On the other hand, cool weather crops, like most leafy greens, will have run their course by mid or late June. I strongly question the source of lettuce that appears in August or September.
Sometimes It’s Local Sometimes It’s Not
This is not to say that veggies can’t be grown outside their normal season. Cucumbers and tomatoes may be grown year-round in greenhouses. Hydroponic systems can be set up in controlled environment locations to produce lots of different things whenever those things are desired. Again, that is what you can easily and inexpensively get at a grocery store. These items are often “perfect” in appearance and very consistent in flavor (or lack thereof).
Build A Relationship
The best way to know that you are buying local is to know your grower. Talk with the farmer. Ask questions about the produce. Get to know a little bit about how your food is produced and why it may look a bit different from the grocery store mannequins. You may learn something new!
10 Reasons To Buy Local, In-Season Produce
- The flavor is better when produce ripens in the field.
- The flavor is better when produce is consumed within hours of harvest (rather than days or weeks).
- Fresh produce at peak ripeness offers the highest nutrient value.
- There are almost always more interesting and flavorful produce varieties available locally than the few common mass-marketed varieties found nationwide.
- Buying locally means money is invested locally.
- There is peace of mind when you know your grower and can see the farm operation.
- Local farming helps to ensure broader food security.
- Local farms preserve, and may enhance, genetic diversity.
- Local farms are an important part of the local economy.
- Local farms preserve local green space.