Celebrate summer: Taste the difference in local foods

Posted July 3, 2014 at 3:53 pm

Area farmers markets are finally kicking off after a long, hard winter.

Warm weather means plenty of fresh produce, making summer a great time to take advantage of the remarkable supply of fresh food at farmers markets throughout the Ozarks. The Cedar County Farmers’ Market-El Dorado Springs opened earlier this year in the CCMH Medical Mall parking lot next to Shopko at 1317 S. Hwy 32. The hours of operation have changed somewhat from last year. Vendors will be set up from 8:00 a.m. until 2:00 p.m. every first Saturday of the month, and will close at noon each Saturday for the rest of the month.

What should you expect from a farmer’s market?

“At the farmer’s market I expect fresh, nutritious, delicious food that is locally grown and interaction with the people who grew it. Most often the produce has been harvested at its peak ripeness and has experienced very little storage or transit time to destroy vital nutrients,” said Dr. Pam Duitsman, nutrition and health specialist, University of Missouri Extension.

Farmer’s markets also offer the opportunity to meet and interact with the persons responsible for planting, nurturing and harvesting the food you feed to your family. The experience allows a conversation about growing the food, ideas for preparation, seasoning and storage. The Cedar County Farmers’ Market-El Dorado Springs offers recipes for those new vegetables that you might like to try.

“There’s something incredible about knowing where your food is coming from, and personally knowing the person responsible for producing it. You see firsthand the love and energy and attention that they put into it,” said Duitsman.

Food shopping can become an adventure. Many farmers markets offer lesser-known produce, providing a variety of all sorts and types, including organically grown, all-natural or heirloom varieties of fruits and vegetables. Many markets also offer meat, eggs and other food items in addition to fruits and vegetables according to Duitsman.

“You might come across the best greens, or berries, or peaches that you’ve ever had. The produce will be seasonal and picked at the peak of freshness. So, you get to enjoy local foods at their very best,” said Duitsman. “Freshly picked ripe food is at its peak of flavor and nutrition.”

For example, fresh fruits and vegetables are full of antioxidants and phytonutrients – benefitting our health, preventing disease, and allowing for a remarkable flavor.

Value and quality are usually good at the farmer’s market, since buyers are purchasing directly from the grower. Tax is included in the price you see listed at the Cedar County Farmers’ Market-El Dorado Springs. Comparing to the local grocery store price, the tax there is added at the register. Quality is better because it is locally grown and handled once. All growers at the Cedar County Farmers’ Market-El Dorado Springs have attended a Food Safety- Farm to Market course.

SNAP and WIC cards are accepted at the Cedar County Farmers’ Market-El Dorado Springs, making this farmers market a great choice for those on a tight budget.

Shopping at a farmer’s market also benefits the local community. Purchases at the farmer’s market directly supports the local economy, local agriculture and the farmer selling.

“Farmer’s markets are also a great place to bring the kids. They can often sample fresh foods that they may not have ever tried at home, the experience is fun for them, and they learn so much about where food comes from,” said Duitsman.

Cedar County Farmers’ Market- El Dorado Springs has a program designed for children ages 2-12, known as P.O.P., (Promoting Our Produce). Once they register each day, they will receive a token for $2.00 to be used for produce only. The goal is for children to be able to purchase vegetables/fruits that they like, or haven’t tried in order to increase their intake of fresh vegetables/fruits without parents buying it at the local grocery store and it not being consumed.

It does not matter how old or young you are, or how much you know about food. There’s something for everyone thanks to the ever changing selection of fresh items.

“Eating local, seasonal food has many benefits, and can be a exciting approach to planning recipes and menus, anticipating what’s in season next. With a little planning, eating in season becomes part of our natural rhythm,” said Duitsman.

Farmer’s Markets are not the only way to access local foods. Check in your area for Community Supported Agriculture (CSA’s), you-pick farms and roadside stands. They sell many of the same fresh, seasonal foods that farmers markets sell according to Duitsman.

For more information on nutrition contact one of the following nutrition specialists: Dr. Lydia Kaume in Barton County, (417) 682-3579; Dr. Pam Duitsman, in Greene County, (417) 881-8909; or Cammie Younger in Texas County, (417) 967-4545. Information is also available online http://extension.missouri.edu. For more information on the Cedar County Farmers’ Market-El Dorado Springs contact Jenean Ehlers, RN Market Manager at 417/876-5477.