Spring is gearing up and for a local food junkie like me, it’s time to hit the farmers’ markets. Discover how to find a market near you, then get other tips for eating closer to home.
You might be surprised at the amount of local food available to you. Over the last 15 years, the number of farmers’ markets has more than tripled as more consumers want to know where their food comes from. Produce from nearby farms is typically the highlight at markets but that’s not all you can find. In addition to fresh fruits and veggies, many local purveyors bring along their dairy, meats, fish, honey, baked goods, eggs and flowers. What you’ll find (and when you’ll find it) will vary depending on where you live.
In response to shoppers’ requests, many grocery stores are now carrying more locally produced foods too. Look for country of origin labeling in the produce section as well as store shelves. My neighborhood Whole Foods Market places a “local” sign next to all the products that come from nearby sources.
Since the local bounty will vary by state and changes throughout the year, it really helps to know what you can find from month to month. Many states have produce availability charts like this one for Connecticut. It helps to know that in California strawberries are available as early as January, but in New York, you might not see them until June.
To find a seasonal availability chart for your state, visit the state’s agriculture board website or check out this index at FieldtoPlate.com.
What if you’re tempted to buy leeks or garlic scapes but you have no idea how to prepare them, or you’re clueless about how to store the beautiful head of cauliflower you just bought? That’s where the Healthy Harvest Regional Food Guides can help. The monthly availability info is for the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic states but you can look up nutrition facts, uses and storage info no matter where you live.
- Get to know your farmer – they are happy to answer your questions.
- Check out a few markets to find your favorite– they’re all different.
- Bring cash (small bills if possible) and your own shopping bags.
TELL US: What do you do to get more local foods in your diet?
Dana Angelo White, MS, RD, ATC, is a registered dietitian, certified athletic trainer and owner of Dana White Nutrition, Inc., which specializes in culinary and sports nutrition. See Dana’s full bio »