By Amy Jacquez
The days are long and the sun is hot. Some days it feels as if you cannot even get a break from the heat no matter how hard you try. Days like this are when you can fully enjoy a fresh cut piece of watermelon or veggies from the nearby farmers markets.
Walk into any local grocery store in the area this time of year and you will see a wide array of “fresh” fruits and vegetables that are very appealing on these sweltering days when it is simply too warm to have a hot meal. Just the sight of them will make your mouth water. Did you know that most of these fruits and vegetables traveled thousands of miles to reach the shelves of your local grocer?
Many of the fresh commodities we see in the chain stores are imported from different places around the country and even around the world. The transport cost is reflected in the retail price of these items. It can be quite expensive to fill your kitchen with these goods, but there is an alternative. Local farmers markets are the answer.
Shopping at the farmers market can be an amazing experience that has many perks; first off, the freshness. The fruits and vegetables you purchase at the farmers market are the freshest available. They are able to ripen to their full potential in their natural element, hand picked, and delivered right to the market ready for you to buy. There is no long distance transport involved. The items are locally grown and truly fresh from the farm.
By purchasing local, you are helping to support local farmers and the local economy, keeping your dollars right inside your community. For the farmers, this is one of their main sources of income every year. They depend on us, the consumer, to continue to visit and purchase the goods, so they are able to continue to provide them to us as well as provide for their families.
The price of goods is often a bit easier on your wallet as well. Without the extra costs of transportation, harvest and packaging, you can sometimes see a drastic difference in price by purchasing locally grown produce, not to mention the better quality and taste of freshness.
Spice up your kitchen flavor by utilizing what is offered at the farmers market. You can often find an array of produce that is not offered in your average grocery store. Take advantage of the flavors and unique items and change things up a bit when it comes to preparing a meal. Fresh, crisp peppers are a great additive to almost any meal to give it a bit of a kick.
One of the best aspects to shopping at the farmers market is that you know where your food comes from. You know that it is locally grown on a local farm by local people. It did not have to be preserved in any way for travel. Much of the produce available to you at the farmers market is also minimally processed, meaning minimal pesticides, hormones, antibiotics or genetic modification has been used. If you are unsure if the produce you are buying has been processed, simply ask. You have full access to the farmer right there in front of you.
With the change of the seasons, the products offered at the farmers markets also change — just as you enjoy sweet corn in the summer that is picked fresh, straight from the stalk.
This autumn, the variety will change a bit, as you will be offered what is in season for the area as well as some of the later summer crops.
Shopping at the farmers market is also a great way to help the environment. As stated before, foods in the supermarkets often travel thousands of miles to reach their final destination on the shelves and come with extra packaging. This uses large amounts of natural resources, contributes to pollution and more trash in the landfills, which, in turn, pollutes the air, water and the land. When you purchase fresh produce from a local farmer, most of these concerns are obsolete.
The farmers market is a great place to connect with people. Often, people gather at the farmers market to help support local farmers as well as to be sociable. It is truly a “small-town” environment, and it is family friendly. This is a great opportunity to talk with people about their produce or goods offered. You can find out exactly where and how it is grown, what is in season at the time as well as what is coming in the future. You can also get tips from the farmers and other customers on the best way to prepare certain items by trying a new recipe.
There is often more to offer than just fresh fruits and vegetables. Many times you will also see flowers for your garden, home-made items, fresh baked goods, local canned items, such as jams, jellies and local honey.
Taking a stroll through the farmers market or local produce stands is a very rewarding experience in many ways. Enjoy the benefits of helping out the local economy as well as making your taste buds and wallet happy.
Area farmers markets:
Bradford Square Farmers Market
Bradford Square Mall parking lot
Open 6 a.m. – 1 p.m. Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays through Oct. 30
Cadiz-Trigg County Farmers Market
Parking lot adjacent to the Cadiz Baptist Church Annex on Main Street, Cadiz
7 a.m. – noon Wednesdays and Saturdays through September
Clarksville Downtown Farmers Market
Public Square, downtown Clarksville
8 a.m. – 1 p.m. Saturdays through Oct. 18
Downtown Farmers Market
Founders Square, downtown Hopkinsville
Open 7 a.m. – 1 p.m. Wednesdays and Saturdays through Nov. 1
The Christmas Market will be open Saturdays only Nov. 22 through Dec. 20
Todd County Farmers Market
301 Main St., Elkton
Open 3-7 p.m. Thursdays