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Fresh fruits and vegetables from farmer's markets always better

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Gowan: shoppers stretching dollars

By Greg Summers

Local produce is now available and consumers are taking advantage of it.

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The Lancaster County Farmer’s Market on Pageland Highway is in full swing, along with the Lancaster County Fruit and Vegetable Growers Association farmer’s market at Ace Hardware on South Market Street.

The county market is open on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays. The fruit and vegetable grower’s market is open on Wednesday and Saturday mornings.

Local farmer Don Gowan said the county market is enjoying a banner year. He said the vendor count has almost doubled.

“It’s early, but it’s already shaping up as one of the best seasons we’ve seen in several years,” he said.

Mae Barber, president of the Lancaster Fruit and Vegetable Growers Association, said its members always look forward for an opportunity to provide fresh, locally-grown produce. The association is a private group of small farmers and large gardeners who get together to learn and socialize.

“We may not have quite the variety and amount of vegetables as some other markets but ours is fresh and grown right here,” she said. “The fruits and vegetables are grown locally by the members of the association or their friends or families. Most of us grow different things and we learn from each other.”

Gowan attributes the increase in traffic at the county’s farmer’s market to the economy. Americans have been spending more time in their kitchens since the economy soured and food prices began to rise. According to a recent report in Food Technology, 53 percent of consumers are cooking more often and eating out less.

“That (the economy) has a lot to do with it,” Gowan said. “People have to stretch their dollars as far as they can. You can save a lot money by buying from a farmer’s market.”

It’s a given that fresh fruits and vegetables are highly nutritious.

Fresh produce is often highest in key vitamins and minerals.

Fresh vegetables provide a variety of vitamins and minerals, are low in fat and they provide fiber.

U.S. Department of Agriculture’s nutritionists recommend 3 to 5 servings from the vegetable group each day.

“The highest nutrient content is when you walk out in your yard, pick a tomato and cut it,” said Angela Forbes, Clemson Extension Service nutritionist. “The key is eating it fresh. The fresher, the better.”

Ann Christie, county director of the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service said most store-bought produce was shipped hundreds or thousands of miles and often stored in warehouses.  

“There is a movement to support local growers so you know how and where your food is grown,” Christie said. “When you buy locally, that’s what you get and 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,” Christie said. 

Barber said membership to the Lancaster County Fruit and Vegetable Growers Association is open to anyone who wants to learn about small-scale farming and gardening.  Dues are only $5 per year and can be paid to Rev. R. A. Morrison, Treasurer, at 5911 Morrison Road, Lancaster, SC  29720. Checks should be made out to Rev. R. A. Morrison.