Wednesday, June 27, 2007

healthier eating

I have noticed that when I come to Maine I am more critical of what I put in the grocery cart, selecting local and organic rather than the cheapest. I buy butter proudly made in Maine, buckwheat pancake mix ground in a mill up the road, and our favorite ice cream parlor serves locally made ice cream with 25 flavor choices as well as giving Will the opportunity to practice the piano. Farmer markets abound, even with a growing season 2 months behind the mid-Atlantic states allowing me to buy free range chicken and eggs from a farmer who posts pictures of her flock of Rhode Island Reds. The girls came with me last week to the weekly market to also purchase a quart of gold from the sweet and gentle honey lady.
I don't know exactly why my attitude changes as the latitude changes, but perhaps it is the availability of good products, knowing that soon we will be farmers hoping someone buys our produce, or the constant greenie drumbeat in the local media of how important all these issues are to our health and to preserve the rural character of Maine.
NEWPORT - Maine’s farmers markets are open for the season and market masters across the state say attendance is increasing and customers are buying. And it’s not just the crisp spring greens or bright green asparagus and fiddleheads that are drawing people to the markets.
"It is a sense of community, entertainment and education," said Deanne Herman, marketing manager at the Maine Department of Agriculture.
Those who have been to a farmers market before know that it’s a different type of shopping experience, she said. "All of your senses are engaged. You’re seeing, hearing, feeling and tasting things that you’re not likely to have experienced at a typical grocery store." More than just buying food, customers have a chance to meet and interact with the person who grew it.
Public concern about food safety is another reason farmers markets are valuable, according to Hillas. "As consumers increasingly raise questions about food security in response to e-coli outbreaks, mad cow quarantines, and the recent recall of contaminated dog food, the farmers market offers the option of directly asking food producers about food safety," Hillas said. "Answers about production techniques and post-harvest handling are immediately available. In addition, market farmers are happy to share advice on cooking, nutrition or gardening topics."
According to last week’s New England Agriculture Statistics’ crop report, it’s been quite a spring for Maine’s farmers. Nearly all crops have been planted, fields were dry enough for farmers to get on them and work, and corn plants are already popping up.
Herman said that crops available in early June include asparagus, crisp lettuces, spicy mustard greens, arugula, spinach, baby carrots, radishes, broccoli, as well as an array of vegetable seedlings for home gardeners.
We will be going on Sunday afternoon on a farm tour of a dairy sheep operation an hour south of town. Hopefully the children will behave and I will learn lots about fencing and milking. I like the looks and docility of sheep, their triple usefulness in wool, milk, and meat.


scmom said...

I think when the farmers take pride in their products, and they're not just out to make a buck, it makes you want to support them. We used to have a wonderful farm not far away, but they went out of business. I was happy to spend more on their fresh vegetables, than from the guy at the farm stand selling the same stuff as Kroger for twice the price!

Anonymous said...

You forgot one about the sheep: they make AWESOME lawn mowers!

Miss you at Ora!