Thursday, May 1, 2008

Markets Opening State-Wide

The first of May means this weekend markets across the state will be opening for the season. Radishes, lettuce, bedding plants, baked goods, honey, farm fresh eggs, asparagus, beets, chives, onions and peas are many of the items you will find at the market during this time.

There have been many news stories on the increase in the number of Missouri markets and the importance of eating healthy through your local farmers’ market that I have ran across lately.

Soulard Market Manager Sandra Zak passed along a recent story with the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, “Food fresh from the farm are available at local markets” that many might find of interest.

Also, there have been some calls about if there would be any berries to pick this year. After last year's late freeze diminished many yields, early predictions this year are for bumper crops, especially of fruits. You can find a listing of pick-your-own fruit operations across Missouri on the AgriMissouri site.

If you are a consumer and looking for some good farmers’ market shopping tips for this weekend we have put together of the Most-Know Shopping Tips when visiting a market.

Go early for selection, go late for deals: Farmers frequently have only small quantities of specialty vegetables or even of more common items, such as berries. These tend to sell out within the first hour or so. And because vendors would rather sell everything than bring food back to the farm, you can often get more for less during the last hour of sales.

Look on the first pass, buy on the second:Quality and price can vary significantly, even from stands within a few yards of each other.

Know the difference between growers and brokers:Buyers can easily assume that citrus fruits like oranges and lemons are not locally grown. The origins of other fruits and vegetables may be less certain. That doesn't mean you can't get good deals on non-local produce at a farmers market. But if your goal is to get the freshest produce possible and to support local farmers, ask where the produce comes from.

Don't overbuy:Produce from a farmers market may have a shorter shelf life than produce from the supermarket. Those heirloom tomatoes look and taste fantastic — but they may not last past Tuesday or Wednesday when you buy them on Saturday. Conversely, some produce, such as lettuce, may last longer.

Bring cash: Many vendors don't take credit cards.

Grab a brochure or business card: Many farmers sell their produce on their own properties all week long. If you can't make it to a farmers market, perhaps you can go directly to the source on another day of the week.

I will be headed to my hometown of Mtn. Grove for the market’s opening day on Saturday morning and then headed to Simpson Family Farm, which is right outside Mtn. Grove for a farm visit. Sunday will start the Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds 8th Annual Spring Planting Festival, May 4 & 5 from 10am - 7pm in Mansfield, where more than 5000 gardeners will gather for the largest heritage gardening event!

(PHOTO: Thanks to new blogger Debi Kelly for letting me borrow this beautiful photo from the Columbia Farmers' Market she took on a recent shopping trip.)

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