In a CAST Top 50 Food Questions news segment addressing the topic of fresh produce and food safety, Dr. William G. McGlynn says that humans are consuming more fresh fruits and vegetables than they have in the last 18 years. Also on the increase, foodborne illnesses associated with fresh produce. The solution, according to Dr. McGlynn, is that "We can cut down on foodborne illnesses with a more farm-to-fork approach." Luckily, farmers markets are the perfect chance to implement this technique. Not only is it an opportunity to incorporate farm-fresh ingredients into your next meal, but it has lots of other advantages as well.
1. Meet the farmers:Now more than ever before, consumers demand transparency between the food they eat and the farmers who grow it. Farmers markets provide shoppers with the opportunity to meet and talk to the people who are working hard to feed our growing population. Contrary to popular belief, farmers love sharing their passion for agriculture and graciously welcome your questions. Additionally, people who know you tend to want to help you, whether it's cutting you a deal or letting you know when your favorite produce will be on sale.
2. Learn a farmer's secret:Not only are farmers markets the best way for you to make a personal connection with those who put food on your table, exhibitors may also be a great resource for learning a few cooking tips and tricks. Farmers are very knowledgeable about their produce and often feed their families the same products. Are you looking for something to spice up your fresh salsa recipe or a side dish to go with some juicy pork chops? Ask the farmer!
3. Try something new:Although you are always sure to find your favorite seasonal produce at your local farmers market, you are also likely to find a few items that will stretch your culinary imagination. Have you heard your friends talk about gooseberries and rhubarb but never tried it? Chances are you might find, maybe even sample, them here. You never know, you might even discover some new favorites!
4. Eat seasonal, full-of-flavor produce:Eating foods that are locally grown means that you are eating foods at the peak of their growing season. The foods we consume from our local grocery store during the winter months typically have traveled thousands of miles before reaching the produce department. Though this food has been approved safe to eat, the farm-to-fork route that Dr. McGlynn discussed is being lengthened. If you have ever eaten strawberries right off the vine or bitten into an apple plucked directly from the tree, then it is no secret that produce tastes better when it is perfectly ripe.
5. Enjoy the beautiful weather:Have you been looking for a fun, new weekend activity? Farmers markets are kid friendly and dog friendly! Get out and enjoy the fresh air and occasional entertainment from local musicians. Let your kids pick out something new to try and enjoy some friend and family bonding time.
6. Eat local:Spending money with local farmers and growers stays close to home. In addition to supporting your local economy, it also helps to keep local businesses afloat--instead of handing money over to corporations in another city, state, or country. On top of that, buying produce locally can help cut down on agriculture's environmental impact and help to maintain farmland and green space in your area.
For additional information about food safety, visit USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service or FoodSafety.gov.
By: Kylie Peterson