Thursday April 18, 2013

It’s that time of the year when many of us say to Mother Nature, "Enough all ready!"

While we’ve been greeting the gradual warm-up with cautious smiles, we’re not quite ready to start tilling the old garden soil.

All too often, we’ve seen our hopes for spring dashed by a freak snowstorm or hard frost, so we think we’ll wait a few more weeks before declare ourselves free and clear of winter.

But that’s not stopping the folks at the region’s many farmers’ markets from gearing up for another growing season.

In Brattleboro, organizers, vendors and volunteers spent last Sunday getting ready the market’s location on Western Avenue.

And in Townshend, as in other towns including Walpole, N.H., and Bellows Falls, market organizers are soliciting farmers and crafters who wish to display, and sell of course, the fruits of their labor.

We are fortunate to have a number of farmers’ markets within a 30-minute drive of just about wherever we live, but the benefits of summer don’t end there.

There are also numerous farmstands operated by professional farmers and then there are our neighbors who put their extra zucchini, tomatoes and melons out on a crate in their front yards.

As if that’s not enough, you can sign up for regular pickups or deliveries from one of any number of community supported agriculture operations that have sprouted like weeds in the past decade.

The truth is, across much of the country it’s never been easier to buy local, eat organic and support small farmers than it is today.

And though some of the products are a bit more expensive than you might find in a supermarket aisle, it’s worth the extra cost.

We often ask why many of us are willing to spend top dollar for the best big-screen television or mobile phone but when it comes to what they put in our stomachs, want the cheapest product they can find?

If they were really concerned about their health and that of their loved ones, they’d be watching their favorite shows on an old black-and-white TV and making calls on a landline phone, rather than skimping on what they’re stuffing in their craws.

As Strolling of the Heifers recently revealed in its Locavore Index, Vermont tops of the list of states with residents who are committed to raising and eating local food.

"The average carrot sold in a supermarket travels more than 1,800 miles to get there," said Orly Munzing, the founder of the Strolling. "Wouldn’t you rather eat a carrot grown nearby, by a farmer you can meet? And wouldn’t you like that to be true of most of your food, whether it’s meat, dairy, vegetables or fruit?"

Why yes, we would, and the truth is, much of what we buy at the local supermarket can be obtained either at a farmers’ market or directly from a local farmer.

While it is true you won’t find many banana or kiwi fruit farmers in these here parts, in season you can find everything from blueberries to strawberries, tomatoes to hot peppers, apples to peaches and eggplant to potatoes.

And year round you can find plenty of meat and dairy products, as well as eggs and root vegetables.

It’s true it’s not as convenient as one-stop shopping, but it’s also true that the food is better for you, when you shop local you support your friends and neighbors and, yes, it even tastes better.