Summer is in full swing, and, for many of us, that means fresh locally grown produce.
In the last few years, a new consumer movement has been growing — the ‘buy local’ movement.
And it is leading to increased interest in locally grown agricultural products. Why buy local?
Food grown in your own community was probably picked within the past day or two. It is crisp, sweet and loaded with flavor.
Several studies have shown that the average distance food travels from farm to plate is 1,500 miles. In a weeklong delay from harvest to dinner table, sugars turn to starches, plant cells shrink and produce loses its vitality.
Local farms grow a huge number of varieties to provide a long season of harvest, an array of eye-catching colors and the best flavors.
Many varieties are heirlooms, passed down from generation to generation because they taste good. These old varieties contain genetic material from hundreds or even thousands of years of human selection.
They may someday provide the genes needed to create newer, better varieties.
With fewer than 1 million Americans now claiming farming as their primary occupation, farmers are a vanishing breed.
The farmer now gets less than 10 cents of the retail food dollar. Local farmers who sell direct to consumers cut out the middleman and get full retail price for their food, which means farm families can afford to stay on the farm, doing the work they love.
When you buy direct from the farmer, you are re-establishing a time-honored connection.
Knowing the farmers gives you insight into the seasons, the weather and the miracle of raising food.
In many cases, it gives you access to a farm where your children and grandchildren can go to learn about nature and agriculture. Relationships built on understanding and trust can thrive.
A well-managed family farm is a place where the resources of fertile soil and clean water are valued. Good stewards of the land grow cover crops to prevent erosion and replace nutrients used by their crops. In addition, the patchwork of fields, meadows, woods, ponds and buildings is the perfect environment for many beloved species of wildlife.
By supporting local farmers, you can help ensure there will be farms in your community tomorrow and that future generations will have access to nourishing, flavorful and abundant food.
A wide range of commodities are grown right here in Northeast Georgia: apples, beans, bell peppers, blueberries, peppers, eggplant, grapes, melons, okra, onions, peaches, peas, pumpkins, strawberries, corn, sweet potatoes and tomatoes.
While the Farmers Market features many of the traditional fruit and veggie favorites, you can also find a nice selection of potted plants, cut flowers, homemade bread, locally produced honey, jams and jellies, and fresh eggs.
The Farmers Market is open at 6 a.m. on Tuesdays and 7 a.m. on Saturdays. The market is located on the corner of East Crescent Drive and Jesse Jewell Parkway, near Interstate 985 Exit 24.
Thanks to Georgia Organics for contributing to this article.
Billy Skaggs is Hall County extension agent. He can be reached at (770) 531-6988.