I love starting my weekend with a trip to the farmers market. I may start the day overwhelmed by my to-do list, but everything slows down as I start to walk past the tables of vibrant produce, local honey, and artisanal breads and cheeses. Connecting with your food and those who produce it makes you pause, breathe, and appreciate the great gift of real food. You know you’re doing something better for your body and planet by going fresh and local.
However, you can’t take for granted that everything at your local farmers market is good for you and the planet. Supporting your local farmers market can provide better quality produce and be beneficial to the environment and local economy. However, it is not a guaranty that the produce is free of pesticides, meets safety standards, or that the product is actually from a local source. If you’re not taking the opportunity to get to know your farmer you may not be getting what you bargained for. Here are some questions to ask at your next (or first) farmers market visit.
Farmers Markets in all 50 States Accept Food Stamps and EBT
DO YOU USE PESTICIDES?
Not every local farmer grows organically. Those who do so often proudly display their USDA organic label. If you don’t see the organic label, you need to ask how they spray and fertilize their crops. Some farmers use all organic methods but simply do not have the resources to obtain the organic certification. Others may use conventional methods of pest control and fertilization. If it is a fruit or vegetable on the Dirty Dozen list, make sure to choose organically grown produce.
WHAT DO YOU FEED YOUR LIVESTOCK?
Local and grass fed seem to go hand-in-hand but you can’t assume that is the case. Cows and chickens may still be eating grain due to cost and land availability (or even junk food!). They may also still be getting things you don’t want in your food, like antibiotics. Organic eggs may be the best protein choice at the farmers market. They can be used in a variety of ways and can be less expensive per serving than organic beef.
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U-Relish Farm crock pot meals have become an integral part of my meal planning. Cara Dafforn, formerly the Director of Development for the School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences at IUPUI which has a department of Nutrition and Dietetics, created the company to provide nutrient dense, preservative free, delicious meals in minutes to assist busy families avoid fast food and convenience food options. The ingredients are all regionally sourced and much is grown on Cara’s own farm near Indianapolis. It is all prepared in a kitchen free of gluten, dairy, soy, nuts, and shellfish. My favorite story was the young boy that approached Cara to tell her that he loved one of her meals as much as he loves his Wii! Any time we can get children excited about healthy eating, especially if they have not been before, it is a success!
U-Relish Farm crock pot meals come in savory, spicy, or sweet. There is a pea product line, a bean product line, and a lentil product line. The Chipolte Corn Chili was really spicy in my opinion! Each eight ounce package is labeled with cooking instructions, serving notes, protein suggestions, and ingredients. The packages say that they serve three, but we easily got 4-6 servings from a package by adding protein and serving with rice. I also used the leftover (too spicy for me) Chipolte Corn Chili to top eggs and spice up breakfast.
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Sometimes as bloggers, we write things that we want other people to read, and sometimes we write things that we need to remember ourselves. Sometimes when you are making a change, it helps to say it out loud to someone else to make it more real for yourself. Today, I need to say out loud that I am re-committing to eating local food (Everyone falls off the wagon at some point.) These are eight reasons why you might always want to eat local.
1. Allergies Eating locally made honey is supposed to be good for your allergies because the bees are using the local pollen, what is likely causing your allergic reactions. It is the same theory as a vaccine – if you are given a little, your body learns how to fight it, so you develop an immunity. Plus, you’re much more likely to get actual honey than at a store.
2. The real scoop Often when shopping at farmers markets, you get to talk to the actual farmers to get the real scoop on the types of chemicals were used, where animals reside, and what they are fed. Just because something is labeled organic does not mean that chemicals have not been used.
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Even with road closures, more time spent in traffic, and parking rates unusual for the Circle City, it is hard to find anyone complaining in Indianapolis. We are all excited and proud to be a Super City. Despite the spike in business and catering orders that restaurant owners were already seeing the two weeks before the Super Bowl, I was able to interview a few local business owners to hear the truth about how they are or are not doing things differently for the Super Bowl.
One major rumor is that restaurants are jacking up prices to gouge out of towners this weekend, but Monon Food Company in Broad Ripple and Thr3e Wise Men Brewing Company/Scotty’s Brewhouse assured me that they are not. The Scratch Truck food truck may have to cover additional expenses during the week leading up to the Super Bowl because they will be hiring additional staff and renting out extra space for all the food preparation that they need to do, which they anticipate being up to six times what they do during a normal week. While they may not be increasing prices, all the restaurants I spoke to assured me that they will be bringing in additional staff to ensure the best service possible.
Since Indianapolis is host to the “Greatest Spectacle in Racing” – the Indianapolis 500 – every year, which sells three times the tickets that the Super Bowl will, as well as other major racing events that bring in fans from around the world, we are no stranger to crowd management. However, all of the restaurant representatives agreed that the Super Bowl is different. Tim of the Monon Food Company explained that the “press experience around [Super Bowl XLVI] far exceeds other events, so there is more excitement and more spectators who are coming to town just to party,” even if they are not going to the big game on Sunday.
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October is National Farm to School Month, which was enacted by Congress last year. The concept centers around creating and promoting strong relationships between local farms and schools.
A national grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is meant to provide support for not just schools, but businesses and other institutions in promoting the use of locally-grown produce in their cafeterias. The latest school to take advantage of this healthy initiative is the University of Missouri. The state of Missouri has 78 school districts that use locally grown produce.
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