Warm weather is upon us and that also means it’s time to visit your local farmers’ market. This time of year is the best time to change eating habits because of the abundance of fruits and vegetables available for us. Over the past month as I drive between my two counties, Duplin and Sampson, I have seen an abundance of produce stands set up for easy access for consumers. These stands allow us direct access to local foods, which can provide a trickling effect for our county.
How is this beneficial? Research shows that eating foods that are grown nearby may lead you to consume more fresh fruits and vegetables. Just seeing the fresh produce stands with the abundance of strawberries and ripe tomatoes makes me crave them every time. Nothing can beat the flavor you get from a local grown tomato.
That being said, it also helps the consumer to make better food choices. By eating a diet high in fruits and vegetables we have a decreased risk of heart disease, some forms of cancer, and being overweight or obese. Local fruits and vegetables often taste better because it is picked ripe and doesn’t have to be shipped. This can also help you to follow the MyPlate guidelines which suggests half of your plate to consist of fruits and vegetables. Keep in mind that we want low fat and low sugar on our plates. Although I love my mom’s fried okra, it can still taste just as good baked!
Spending money locally can also help us support the local economy. This can provide money for jobs and local businesses. It also supports our local farmers, helps with farmland preservation, and helps keep Sampson county friendly with community interaction.
Get the most nutrients from your food and eat local. Visit the Clinton Farmers’ Market on Wednesdays, Fridays, and Saturdays from 9AM – 2PM. You can also stop by the Cooperative Extension office for some recipes from The Produce Lady, a program from NC Cooperative Extension with hundreds of seasonal recipes (http://www.theproducelady.org/).
Sydney Johnson is an area Family & Consumer Sciences extension agent, with the North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service. She can be reached by calling the Sampson County Center at 910-592-7161.