On the Table

On the Table: How to get fresh local produce

CorrespondentApril 9, 2013 

Make frequent trips to a favorite neighborhood supermarket that stocks plenty of seasonal, organic, locally grown produce or shop at your farmer's market or a roadside stand.

NEWS & OBSERVER FILE PHOTO - SCOTT SHARPE — ssharpe@newsobserver.com Buy Photo

Spring is the official launch of fresh vegetable season. From now through fall, each week will bring an increasing range of fresh fruits and vegetables to add variety and needed nutrients in your diet.

One convenient way to take advantage of all that goodness is to subscribe to a CSA farm. I’ve written about CSA – “community-supported agriculture” – in past columns.

The basic concept is this: You pay a local farmer a predetermined amount upfront and receive a portion of the harvest throughout the growing season. It’s a great way to support farmers and benefit from seasonal, locally grown foods.

But CSA isn’t the only way to reap those benefits, and it doesn’t work for everyone. We subscribed to a CSA farm for several years but stopped after one child left for college, cutting our food needs substantially.

At the same time, we started traveling more and found we often couldn’t use our weekly allotment. Also, the mix of foods didn’t always work for us – too many eggplants and pattypan squash, which we didn’t eat, and voluminous quantities of salad greens and kale that came at the same time.

We needed more control over the food choices. That’s when we began looking for alternatives to CSA, and there are plenty.

We eat as much fresh produce as ever, but now we use this “four point strategy”:

• Make frequent trips to a favorite neighborhood supermarket that stocks plenty of seasonal, organic, locally grown produce. We stop once or twice a week for foods that we want to buy organic: Apples, celery, green peppers, salad greens and berries, for example.

• When the farmers market is open, stop and pick up whatever looks good. When our backyard tomato crop went bust last year, the farmers market kept us in tomato sandwiches.

• Stop at roadside produce stands. I buy peaches, strawberries, cantaloupe and corn on the cob.

• Grow your own. Having your own backyard supply of fresh basil, cherry tomatoes and parsley is one of life’s simple pleasures.

CSA is a great option, but if it’s not for you, don’t let that stop you. Take advantage of all the other alternatives you have for enjoying local fresh produce.

Suzanne Havala Hobbs is a licensed, registered dietitian and clinical associate professor in the Departments of Health Policy and Management and Nutrition in the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health. Send questions and comments to suzanne@onthetable.net; follow her on Twitter, @suzannehobbs.

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