by Anna Fletcher
Rich eggplants, juicy figs, crisp green beans, bright pumpkins, and sweet persimmons. The end of summer and beginning of fall is prime season for autumn fruits and veggies that do as much good for your body as they do for your taste buds. As mornings get cooler and the leaves begin to change, you will start seeing fall produce at the farmers’ market. From acorn squash and sweet potatoes to pomegranates, cranberries, and pears, ’tis the season for tasty, ripe produce! And it’s no secret that the best way to eat seasonally is to buy locally. Not only does locally grown food provide the full flavor that only comes from the peak of ripeness, it benefits your health, the environment, and your local economy!
Locally grown food takes a shorter trip from the garden to your grocery basket, meaning that there is less time for the nutrient value to decrease. Out-of-season produce that is shipped from another state or country has to be transported around and will sit in a distribution center until it gets to the store, all the while losing nutritional goodness. The more steps in the shipping and distribution process there are, the higher the chances of contamination and the chemical content needed to preserve the goods. Plus, locally grown foods just taste better! Tomatoes are a prime example. Many people who are not partial to tomatoes have a drastic change of heart when they try a fresh, juicy heirloom tomato that is locally grown instead of the unnaturally round, bright red tomatoes that you see at Walmart. And that’s just tomatoes. Think about it – generally scorned produce like brussels sprouts and turnips are actually really tasty! Try some from your neighborhood farmers’ market. You’ll be surprised at how delicious they can be!
Over the past decades, commercial buildings, warehouses, and apartment complexes have gradually taken over farmland, pastures, and open spaces. Active agricultural land is diminishing - the National Resources Inventory, which tracks and assesses the conditions of America’s natural resources, reported a 4 million acre decrease in farmland between 2002 and 2007. And six years later, our land resources are still stressed and diminished. However, there is still hope! And it lies with small farmers. As large farmlands are steadily losing ground (literally), small-scale farmers are hard at work producing local agriculture and motivating other aspiring local farmers to do the same. This growth in small, local farms is producing stable, calculable sales and noticeably boosting the local food industry. So, by spending your money on locally grown foods, you are not only helping to maintain farmland, but you’re increasing the value of land to the farmers and keeping the local food industry going strong!
A lot of produce is super easy to grow yourself, too. Beans, tomatoes, kale, fresh herbs, and eggplants are the most likely to be spotted in backyard gardens. All you have to do is be mindful of season, location, weeds, and water, and you can have a fresh, colorful garden!
Grab your Grocery Getter, hit up your neighborhood farmers’ market, and be transported to a magical land of fresh, locally grown fruits and veggies, friendly people, and a fun, healthy atmosphere! Even if you’re not planning on buying anything, farmers’ markets are super interesting and fun to explore. So stock your Earth Bags full of delicious and nutritious goodies from the local produce stands and take a moment to appreciate the small farmers out there who are making sure that we get the best natural and healthy foods!