Eating fresh from local farms
Spring has arrived with early access to eating local. We survived the winter by consuming tasteless fruits and vegetables shipped too many miles to still please the palate. But a new day is dawning. We’re already indulging in the sweetness of freshly-picked strawberries from local farms and soon we’ll cut into crisp cucumbers and slice through juicy, ripe tomatoes.
When people tell me that they don’t like fruits and vegetables, I ask them if they’re eating foods that are in season. We can walk into just about any grocery store and find what we’re looking for any time of the year – which is very convenient – but many of us have lost touch with where our food comes from and the cycles of the growing seasons.
Other than farmers, no one pays more attention to these seasons than chefs. Because they know the sooner the food gets from the farm to the fork, the better it tastes.
In this Mayo Clinic Minute clip on healthy farmers’ market finds, Mayo Clinic executive wellness chef Jen Welper said if you make meals from the rainbow of colors at the farmers’ market, you’ll enjoy foods that are nice to look at and healthy. Because different colors offer different nutrients.
It’s easier to find locally grown food thanks to a resurgence in farmers’ markets and a system called community-supported agriculture (CSA) that connects farmers more closely to consumers. You can subscribe to the farm and receive a weekly harvest of whatever’s in season. Some CSAs even deliver your produce to your home or office.
As a registered dietitian I can tell you, fresh is best for the body. And people who frequent farmers’ market or subscribe to CSAs are much more likely to consume more fresh fruits and vegetables because they have so much healthy food at their fingertips. This makes it easier to meet the USDA’s guidelines of filling half of your plate with fruits and vegetables and the other half with equal portions of protein and grains.
Another way to increase those fruits and veggies is by stopping at roadside markets where you can find lots of fresh produce from local farms. Most states’ departments of agriculture offer a list of where to buy local, including roadside markets, CSAs and community-based farmers’ markets. Here’s one for
Sourcing fresh foods from local sustainable farms is not only good for our bodies, but also beneficial for our environment. According to the USDA, sustainable agriculture satisfies humans’ needs for food and fiber while enhancing the natural source on which agriculture depends. So, eating locally and sustainably is a win-win for everyone.
Microsoft Corporation founder Bill Gates understands the importance of sustainable agriculture. “Innovations that are guided by smallholder farmers, adapted to local circumstances, and sustainable for the economy and environment will be necessary to ensure food security in the future,” he said.
Now is the time to find your closest local sustainable farm.