By Sherise Beckham, MS, LD, RD
Spring is finally here and summer is just around the corner. With all the flowers blooming and gardens growing, who doesn’t love this time of year? As a dietitian, I am always encouraging people to eat more fruits and vegetables; however, we rarely talk about the origin of them. For example, who grows your produce? Where does your produce come from? What is the timeline from when it was picked, transported, displayed in the store and now in your hand? Answers to all these questions vary, and in some cases we might rather not know the answer.
However, we live in an amazing community. Our community is surrounded with many farmers and growers right here in Bourbon County. Many sell their fruits and vegetables every week between May and October at the local Farmer’s Market. By purchasing there, you can find comfort in knowing who grew it, how they grew it and when it was picked and purchased by you. Local produce can also benefit your health and your taste buds.
Local produce is loaded with more flavor. Usually, produce sold in stores is harvested prior to peak freshness and shipped to your location. The ripening process happens during transportation and storage, rather than on the vine. Local farmers allow their produce to ripen on the vine and then picked when ripe. Once picked, they are sold quickly to you and me, which allows us to enjoy the best tasting tomato ever!
Local produce is also higher in nutrients. By choosing local produce, you are giving your body more of those nutrients that fruits and vegetables are packed with. Again, this goes back to the shorter time from harvest to your plate, and that the produce was picked when ripe, not prior to. When your local farmer picks the produce when ripe, the produce has been given the opportunity to grow and develop to its full potential.
Choosing to purchase local produce also supports our local economy and helps keep our dollars local. Purchasing local supports your local farmers and they use those dollars to reinvest in our community. Choosing local also allows you to ask the farmer about their common practices in growing and harvesting their crops. The more you know, the more you can buy with confidence!
Fresh produce in Kansas is limited to a seasonal basis because of the area’s growing season, but we have all summer to enjoy the produce harvested close to home. Next time you are planning your meals or grocery shopping, consider purchasing from our local farmers: you won’t be disappointed!