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Farmer's markets have local flavor

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By Greg Summers

If you want some of the freshest produce around, you’ll find it at a local farmer’s market.The reasoning is simple. There is no “jet lag” involved. While most of the produce that hits the supermarket shelves is trucked in, local produce has traveled less than a day to get to market, making it as garden fresh as possible. That saves in transportation costs, said Ann Christie, county USDA director.She said buying local produce also supports local growers and cuts out the “middle man.”“There is a movement to support local growers so you know how and where your food is grown,” she said. “If you buy locally, you’re not supporting the use of gasoline to transport food long distances. Local, fresh produce is bound to taste better because it was growing in the field recently.”Two opportunities to buy fresh produce are at the farmer’s market on Pageland Highway, across from the sheriff’s office and at the Lancaster Fruit and Vegetable Growers Association farmer’s market, which opens at 8:30 a.m. Saturday at Ace Hardware and Garden Center, 714 S. Market St.The farmers market (Pageland Highway) is open on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturdays.The fruit and vegetable growers association is open on Wednesday and Saturday mornings. “We may not have quite the variety and the amount of vegetables as some other markets, but ours is fresh and grown in this county,” said Mae Barber, president of the Lancaster Fruit and Vegetable Growers Association.The association is open to anyone who wants to learn about small-scale farming and gardening. The dues are $5 a year. For details, call Barber at 285-6677 or 286-8355.Barber said the cool, wet spring was a welcome sign for local gardeners, but the recent heat wave and sporadic rain slowed the late spring/early summer harvests.“We hope as summer goes on, we’ll have a larger amount of produce available,” she said.“People in Lancaster are really supportive of the market and we hope to have most of what they want to buy.”Farmer’s Market shopping tips– Keep it simple – Build you meal around what fruits and vegetables are in season.– Don’t overbuy – Stick with the exact amount you need. The whole idea behind buying locally-grown produce is to buy what looks good and what is fresh.– Enjoy the market – Walk the entire market to see what’s there before you buy anything. Compare prices, ask for a taste and be willing to pay for it. Keep in mind that the prettiest tomato might not be the best tasting.– Size isn’t everything – In many cases, smaller ears of corn, pickling cucumbers and smaller green beans have the best taste.– Ask questions – Get to know the growers and don’t be afraid to ask them about the produce they’re selling. Find out when it was picked. If you are curious, they will be delighted to answer your questions.– Try new foods – Buy something you’ve never had before. Most growers will be happy to suggest a couple of recipe ideas with you.– Use your own bags – Bring your own tote bag to the market or recycle your own individual plastic bags instead of getting bags from growers or vendors. – Contact features editor Greg Summers at 283-1156.