Farm-to-table meals have become popular within the past few years in restaurants, as well as in the home as more people are bringing this trend into their own kitchens. Nutrition Expert Emily Holdorf reminds us why seasonal, locally-sourced produce is a wonderful way to give back to our community and ourselves.

There is also something comforting about knowing your food came from just up the road, and experiencing that sense of community when you support your local businesses. Growing up in a small upstate NY farm town, I gained a deep appreciation for the hard work our farmers put into their crops and livestock.  I love visiting farmer’s markets because of different produce is available at different times of the year, and always try to use as much locally-sourced, fresh produce as possible in my cooking.

Here are some of the benefits to visiting your local farmer’s market:

Get produce at the peak of freshness

The produce found at your local farmer’s market is picked at the peak of freshness, which is when its nutrient value is at its highest. This is because farmers allow the produce to naturally ripen and mature on the vine before harvesting. So that tomato you pick up at the farmer’s market is fully ripened and contains its full potential of nutrients and antioxidants. Often times, produce at grocery stores is picked before they reach maturity due to a longer travel distance, which means the produce doesn’t have all its potential nutrients.

Support your local farmers & community’s economy

Now more than ever, small family farms need your support! With large agricultural businesses moving in, visiting your local farmer’s market will help make the food industry more sustainable and you will see firsthand the dollars you’ve earned being put to use in your local community. This helps your local economy by cutting out the middleman and creating a simple flow of business directly between you and your farmer. Plus, it cuts down on any distribution or processing fees that may be tacked on to the price of produce, so you get the best deal!  

Try a new fruit or vegetable that’s local to your region

Eating fruits and veggies local to your region gives you the confidence in knowing how and where your food is grown. Farmer’s markets allow you to learn from local farmers about growing practices, new local produce to try, and tips on how to prepare these items for your family.  Eating locally not only makes you feel good about the food you eat, but also educates you about foods grown in your area and makes you feel part of a great community!

Recently, the USDA launched an initiative called MyPlate, MyState, which asks: “What foods, flavors, and recipes is your state/territory known for, and how do they fit into your healthy eating style?” MyPlate, MyState is perfect for this time of year and urges you to get out there and learn about the food your state produces.  

Whether you’ve just moved to a new state or lived in the same one your whole life, make cooking more fun by trying new foods and learning how to use local produce!  

Adapted from the original article.

Emily Holdorf, RDN is a Scranton, PA-based private practice dietitian on a mission to empower others to live a healthier, happier life.  By emphasizing a non-diet approach to eating, Emily helps individuals form a better relationship with food by focusing on why there’s room for every food in moderation. Find out more about about Emily at EmPowered Nutrition.