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Please join us at the Farmers Market

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By Maryellen Garrison

Farmers markets provide a chance for us to get high-quality, fresh foods and support the farmers in their community. Selling at the markets gives farmers a chance to tell others about their operation and agriculture in general.

In the past few years, interest in farmers markets has climbed. The renewed interest is likely due to people trying to improve their diets and increasing awareness about the environmental benefits of buying foods from local farmers. Because of this, people who have never been to a farmers market before may be planning to go to a farmers market this year.

If you’ve never been to a farmers market, you should know that at the Henry County Farmers Market all of our vendors are based right here in Henry County. When you buy from them, you’re contributing directly to our local economy. Most of these vendors have small operations and because of their operation’s size, don’t sell their produce to large commercial wholesalers. Additionally, many producers incorporate sustainable measures into their agricultural practices to preserve the quality of their soil and water and minimize the use of chemicals on their products.

When you buy from a farmers market, you are likely buying produce that is at the peak of its freshness and picked within a day or two of coming to the market. Look for produce that is in-season. Some examples of in-season produce are as follows:

• Spring: asparagus, blackberries, lettuce, peas, spinach and strawberries

• Summer: blueberries, cherries, cucumbers, green beans, melons, okra, sweet corn, tomatoes and zucchini

• Fall: apples, broccoli, cauliflower, collard greens, pears, pumpkins, squash and sweet potatoes

• Winter: beets, cabbage, carrots, onions, winter squash and turnips

Good produce doesn’t mean it is without aesthetic flaws. High-quality fruits and vegetables are crisp and brightly colored. For some fruits, like a peach or melon, a strong scent means they’re perfectly ripening. Produce that is limp, soft or not crisp is likely over ripe and beginning to lose some of its nutritional value, texture and flavor.

If you aren’t going to use the produce immediately, make sure it’s safely stored to maintain its quality and freshness. You should store fresh fruits and vegetables for as little time as possible as they will lose nutrients and quality over time. Potatoes, onions and winter squash should be stored in a cool, dark place, unwashed. Keep all other vegetables refrigerated at temperatures at or below 40 degrees. Place peeled or cut produce in tightly covered containers within two hours.

The Henry County Farmers Market will open Saturday, April 28. It is located on the courthouse lawn in New Castle on Saturday mornings and on Wednesday afternoons when we get into the peak season.  We have 12 paid members of the market and expect to have about eight to 10 more join as we get into the season.  Dues are $25 per year.

For more information about farmers markets, contact the Henry County Cooperative Extension Service.

 

Educational programs of the Cooperative Extension Service serve all people regardless of race, color, sex, religion, disability or national origin.