Gov. Dave Heineman today encouraged Nebraskans to visit their local farmers' markets this season to purchase fresh, locally grown produce.
"Farmers' markets help connect produce growers with residents of cities and towns, and provide growers with another outlet to market their fresh produce," said Gov. Heineman. "Nothing compares to the freshness of the produce found at the farmers' markets across our state. It is great-tasting, and it's good for your health."
In the past 12 years, Nebraska's markets have grown from 39 to over 75, located in 62 communities across the state. The number of produce growers listed with the Nebraska Department of Agriculture has increased to 607 from 78 in that same amount of time.
"Farmers' markets continue to grow here in Nebraska. There is a great deal of appeal for consumers to have the opportunity to talk face to face with the people who grew the produce that ultimately ends up on their plates," said Nebraska Department of Agriculture Director Greg Ibach.
"Fruits and vegetables are critical to good health and everyone should be eating more," said Dr. Joann Schaefer, Chief Medical Officer and Director of Public Health for the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services. "We know 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."
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. The program provides low-income senior citizens with coupons to purchase fresh, locally grown produce at their local farmers' markets. According to Director Ibach, $223,000 worth of coupons were redeemed last year alone by the nearly 5,400 low-income seniors participating in the program. The 2012 program kicks off on June 1st.
Nebraska's farmers' markets generally operate between May and 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. The guide also indicates what produce is in season each month, produce recipes, educational materials and gardening tips. For a copy of the guide, go to www.ourbesttoyou.nebraska.gov or call 800-422-6692.