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Once summer gets into full swing, it’s time to head to your local farmers’ market. Some markets operate year-round, moving indoors in the winter and selling homemade foods, honey, vinegars and other items. But the best time for the farmers’ market is the mid to late summer.
Traditionally, a farmers’ market is a place for local growers to bring their produce to a central location for sale. As a consumer, that means you are getting produce at that just-picked stage. In fact, some vendors pick their offerings the morning of the market. Fresh-picked produce tastes better that most produce you buy at the supermarket, and it may even have more nutritional value.
You might also get a good deal on price. At the farmers’ market, there is no middleman – goods go directly from the producer to the consumer. Farmers’ markets in popular summer vacation areas might be a little pricey. But chances are that supermarkets in those areas are pricey as well. Usually, you’ll pay less at a farmers’ market than you would at a grocery chain in the same area – and you’ll probably get better value for your money.
Most farmers’ markets in climates where it gets cold in the winter have fairly limited offerings until mid-summer, when growers start to harvest the crops they planted in the spring. You will see a changing menu of produce throughout the summer, depending on where you live. Most farmers’ markets operate until later in the fall, when the focus is on apples, cider, squash and pumpkins.
And you usually can get more than raw fruits and veggies at a farmers’ market. Look for fresh-cut flowers, baked goods, cheese, honey, flavored vinegars and oils, and a whole host of items to perk up your table.
Perhaps one of the nicest things about the farmer’s market is the experience. Most markets are held in public places, so you will be mingling with a lot of your friends and neighbors. Talk to the people you see, including the sellers. Take the opportunity to point out to the children in your life that this is what potatoes look like before they are French fries.
If you want to find a farmers’ market in your area, check with your local government. You also can check online at Local Harvest for information about markets all over the country.
Then get out and pick up some corn and some gladiolas, some beans and some fresh spinach. Because before you know it, it will be another long, cold winter.