Finding the Best in Local Fruits and Vegetables

— Written By and last updated by Leeann Crump

DSC01674Now that the growing season is here, there is no excuse for not eating fresh, healthy, and local produce on a regular basis. The USDA recommends eating at least 5 servings of fruits and vegetables per day (preferably more!), and eating locally grown produce gives you the best taste and the freshest, most nutritious, options. An article based on UC Davis research suggested that from harvest of fruits and vegetables to sale in a grocery store it can take up to one to two weeks, during which time produce loses nutritional value. Additionally, fruits and vegetables picked for transport over long distances (the average produce item in a grocery store travels over 1,500 miles) are often picked before they are mature, so they can better withstand rough handling of travel. Being picked prior to maturity also reduces the nutritional value of fruits and vegetables. In order to get the most nutrients and best taste out of fruits and vegetables, eating as locally as possible gives you the best of both!

There are so many ways to buy fresh, locally grown produce in Richmond County! Richmond County is fortunate to have several produce stands which feature fresh, locally grown produce. If you don’t already have a favorite produce stand, contact the Extension Office for a list.

2014-06-27 15.45.24In addition to shopping at local stands, the Rockingham Farmers Market is back for the season, with two sale days: on Wednesdays, at the Health Department parking lot, from 3:30-6:00 p.m., and Harrington Square in Downtown Rockingham from 8:00 – 12:00 on Saturdays. The Farmers’ Market is a “growers only” market, which means the vendors grow their own produce or are selling another farmer’s produce from within 50 miles of Richmond County. The Farmers’ Market is also able to process EBT cards, making healthy eating an option everyone can afford!

Yet another way to support local farmers and get your local produce fix is by purchasing a produce box from Sandhills Farm to Table (SF2T). SF2T delivers a box of produce grown by area farmers and usually picked the day before the box is delivered to gathering sites conveniently located throughout the Sandhills. In Richmond County there are two gathering sites: EE Vuncannon’s in Ellerbe and Discovery Place Kids in downtown Rockingham. Box#2SF2T is a unique organization: a Cooperative, with farmers, consumers, and Co-op workers all as members. There is a small annual fee to be a member (which helps to defray the cost of the box), and members have great flexibility in how they receive their box. Consumers can purchase a box every week, or every other week, and there’s a bread box (which features freshly baked bread from the Bakehouse in Aberdeen). Members also can access the online Artisanal Market to purchase additional items to go in the box, with choices that include extra produce, local baked goods, meats and cheeses! All is delivered in your weekly or bi-weekly box. Box payment is flexible: consumers can pre-pay for the year; for the season (there are two: spring/summer and fall); or with a credit card on file on a week by week basis. Going to the beach this summer? No problem! You can suspend your box for the week you’ll be out of town. Surveys reveal that people who subscribe to a regular produce box really do increase their consumption of vegetables, which can improve health outcomes in numerous ways, including assisting in weight loss, reducing risks of certain cancers and a reduced risk of heart disease.

Make a commitment for healthier eating by increasing the amount of local produce in your diet. Not only will you be helping your own health, you’ll be supporting your farming neighbors, who eat the food they grow, so you know they are growing the best! For more information about where to buy local produce contact Richmond County Cooperative Extension at 910.997.8255 or paige_burns@ncsu.edu., or visit us at 123 Caroline St., Suite 200 in Rockingham.