I headed to the farmers’ market thinking I’d look for something that would make a salad and main dish. I like to plan ahead, so I found a couple recipes online that I thought might be worth trying out and looked for their basic ingredients. Specifically, I wanted to get zucchinis, a watermelon and peaches. This outing, however, was a lesson in improvising, since the internet is useful, but not all-knowing. I had no trouble finding zucchini, since summer squash is plentiful in southern Arizona right now. Watermelons were a bit less abundant, but still available. Peaches, however, were nowhere to be found. After scanning the produce stands, I decided to pick up a few tomatoes, hoping I could work them into a salad.
Also worth noting is that many farmers’ markets offer a wide variety of goods aside from produce. In Phoenix, many markets offer salsas and other sauces, honey, breads, cheeses, meats, clothing and even fresh tamales. I purchased a jar of locally-made tomato sauce from Costantino’s Kitchen to use in a recipe with the zucchini. Buying premade products like this can be a great way to support the local economy while cutting out the time required to make everything yourself. One good question to ask the vendor is whether the ingredients in these premade items are locally sourced.
In addition to farmers’ markets, there are plenty of other outlets for fresh, local foods. If working directly with farmers interests you, you might consider joining a Community-Supported Agriculture (CSA) program, in which you would sign up to receive a share – typically a small-to-medium-sized box – of produce each week from a local farm. You can read more about joining a CSA in our article from last year.
Another option that allows consumers to jump to the beginning of the food system is a pick-your-own farm or orchard where you can choose your fruit and vegetables directly from the plant. Pick Your Own will allow you to find farms in your area.
A food cooperative, typically refered to as a co-op, might also be a good place to look for local foods. Co-ops often offer their members discounts, as well as a variety of local produce options.
Your regular grocery store may carry local, seasonal foods, too, so don’t be afraid to ask questions!