Dear Fellow Nebraskans:
I would like to encourage Nebraskans to visit their local farmers' markets to purchase fresh, locally grown produce this season. Spring came earlier than usual this year and there are plenty of fresh options.
Sweet corn, tomatoes, onions, and green beans are all popular items at farmers' markets and roadside stands across the state and with more markets and stands than ever. Finding fresh produce has never been easier.
In the past twelve years, Nebraska's markets have grown from just 39 to over 77 markets located in 62 communities all across the state. In that same time frame, the number of produce growers has increased from 78 to 607.
Farmers' markets help connect produce growers with residents of cities and towns, and provide growers with another outlet to market their fresh produce. Farmers' markets are also a popular destination for travelers and tourists that are interested in experiencing rural life.
While purchasing fresh fruits and vegetables from a farmers' market helps our growers, it also benefits consumers. A diet high in fruits and vegetables can help reduce the risk of chronic diseases like Type 2 diabetes, stroke, some types of cancer, heart disease and hypertension. That's why when it comes to fruits and vegetables -- more matters.
To get a healthy variety, be sure to taste a rainbow. Different colors of fruits and vegetables from all five color groups provide greater nutrients.
For the past12 years, the Nebraska Department of Agriculture and the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services have collaborated to operate the Senior Farmers' Market Nutrition Program. This program provides low-income senior citizens with coupons to purchase fresh, locally grown produce at their local farmers' markets. Last year, $223,000 worth of coupons were redeemed by the nearly 5,400 low-income seniors participating in the program.
Nebraska's farmers' markets generally operate between May through October, and offer visitors a wide variety of produce throughout the growing season. The Nebraska Department of Agriculture's Guide to Nebraska Fresh Produce lists farmers' markets, roadside stands and U-pick operations across the state and indicates what produce is in season each month of the growing season. You can find the guide at www.ourbesttoyou.nebraska.gov or by calling 800-422-6692 for assistance. On the website you'll also find recipes, educational materials and helpful gardening tips.
Local farmers' markets give consumers a chance to talk face to face with those that are growing the food that will end up on their tables. I encourage you to visit your local farmers' market this week.