By John Ruibal, Your Prowers Medical Center Dietitian
A great way to get fresh vegetables and fruit sourced locally is to visit your neighborhood Farmer’s Market. The produce is picked at the peak of freshness, and most Farmer’s Markets can help increase the number and variety of fruits and vegetables in your diet.
Here are a few benefits of going to your local Farmer’s Market and how doing this can super-charge your diet.
- The farm where the produce is grown is local, meaning it’s super fresh. The staff is knowledgeable and can answer any questions you may have, such as “Where was my food grown?” and “What is next in the harvest?” You can use this information to plan your menus.
- You have the chance to get your whole family involved and teach your kids how to clean and prepare dishes with fresh produce. Kids are more likely to try new fruits and vegetables when they are part of the decision on what to choose.
- Farmer’s Markets are a great way to add variety of fresh produce to your diet.
- By supporting your local farmers, you are supporting the local economy. The money you spend is kept local.
- You can double your money if you use the government’s SNAP program (go to https://bit.ly/2iOJ7Wz for more information). This is a great way to double the amount of produce you can feed your family.
- Eating more fresh vegetables and fruits helps to cut down on unhealthy snacking. Vegetables like cucumbers, celery and carrots are considered “free foods” and can be eaten often and without guilt. Just remember to forgo the salad dressing or dipping sauces.
- Stock up and can or freeze produce to lock in their freshness and nutrition, which you can then enjoy until next season.
- Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) program benefits can be used to purchase fresh fruits and vegetables.
- Fruits and vegetables are a great way to stay hydrated and help you get necessary electrolytes without the sugar of a sports drink.
- Arkansas Valley produce is prized all over the nation, and you can get the best of the best right here in your own backyard when it is the freshest and has the highest nutrient content.
Venora Perkins, an employee in the Prowers Medical Center Food Services department, and her family have managed Hanagan’s Farm Market for more than 20 years. She agrees that Farmer’s Markets have multiple benefits, which is why she and her family get excited when this season rolls around every year.
Hanagan’s is currently the only local Farmer’s Market in town, located on the corner lots of 807 and 809 East Olive Street, and it is open every year starting the first week in August. Its hours are from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., 7 days a week, until the end of the season — usually through September or October at the latest.
Perkins said customers can find an array of produce and food items at Hanagan’s Farm Market, such as fruits (including Rocky Ford cantaloupes and Palisade peaches), vegetables, chilies, onions and pinto beans. On top of that, the market sells S and J Scaff Brothers homemade salsas, preserves and pickled vegetables as well as pure honey from Hidden Honey.
“We have friendly and helpful customer service with knowledge of produce provided,” Perkins said. “Farmer’s Markets give the community a choice to buy their fruits and vegetables fresh — right off the farm to the customer’s table. Everything is stocked continually, and we have trucks come through every couple of days so the produce you’re getting is good and fresh every time. If we don’t have an item a customer needs, we will do our best to get it for them.”
The Hanagan’s Farm has provided the community with a variety of fresh fruits and vegetables for over 100 years. Perkins said the atmosphere at Hanagan’s Farmer’s Market is inviting and very family-oriented. There are many types of customers at the Farmer’s Market, including locals she sees every day to seasonal out-of-towners. Everyone, no matter their age or experience at Farmer’s Markets, is welcome to attend and shop.
“It’s been very rewarding to me and my family to work at Hanagan’s and teach customers what we’ve learned over the years,” she concluded. “We’re thankful to be a part of something that is so helpful to the community and to provide produce that is nutritious for our customers and their families.”