BY BARBARA STORZ
Aug. 6-12 has been proclaimed by U. S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue as National Farmers Market Week. This is the 18th year of proclamations supporting local agricultural production and marketing.
Nationally, farmers markets and other direct marketing outlets “contribute about $9 billion to the U. S. economy,” according to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). This figure has risen almost $2.5 billion over the past two years, as shopping locally for fruits, vegetables and farm products has become increasingly popular in the U. S.
USDA’s marketing service has put together a list of “Top Reasons to Shop at Local Farmers Markets.” Here are some of the highlights.
1. Freshly picked, in season produce is at its peak in flavor and nutrition. In South Texas, we have a very long harvest season that includes both temperate climate plants as well as tropical crops. For example, the Growing Growers Farmers Market is enjoying an abundant season of Guava — or Guayaba (Spanish) fruits — in pink and white varieties. You can buy them fresh or made into jams or pie.
2. Support your local farmers and economy. Your support provides opportunity for small producers and new, beginning farmers and entrepreneurs to be successful and keep local farmland in production.
3. Farmers Markets are a great way to get children involved with meal planning and educating them about fresh produce. Markets often have food demonstrations and cooking classes, along with lots of opportunity to ask the grower about their favorite way of preparing a vegetable.
4. Supporting your local farmers market strengthens your community. The market is a great place to learn about what is available in the area, pick up recipes, and learn more about the producer who grows your food and a way to make new friends.
5. You can try a new fruit or vegetable. Shopping at farmers markets provide opportunity to purchase specialty crops that are not available in super markets or to try heritage varieties that are not grown commercially. This is also a great place to find traditional and culturally diverse products like jams and jellies or baked goods made with local ingredients.
So, whatever reason you choose, shopping at a local farmers market supports the local economy and supports the availability of items like local raw honey and goat’s milk soap, Valley lemon body scrub, specialty vegetables and fruits, like Guava, Pitaya, Chaya, or wonderful jams, like chamoy jam (mango, anocho chili and lime) and home baked items filled with local ingredients.
This weekend, celebrate National Farmers Market Week by shopping at the Growing Growers Farmers Market in Firemen’s Park on1st Street and Business 83 in McAllen. The market is open from 9 a.m. to noon Saturdays.
Barbara Storz is a local horticulturist. You can listen to her garden show at 7 a.m. Saturdays on 710 KURV Radio, or contact her by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.