By Loraine Debnam
As we move toward the first day of summer this month, along with the robins and the little calves dozing in the sun, one of the things I enjoy the most is the return of the area Farmers’ Markets.
In addition to the delicious baking, honey, canning and preserves offered for sale — there are a number of handcrafted objects for your home and yard.
But, of course, the premiere items are the vendors’ array of fruits, vegetables, fresh herbs, flowers and meats. When you buy produce that is fresh and less processed, it guarantees your family will get the benefit of appetizing colourful vegetables with more nutrients because the time is shortened between harvest and consumption.
It’s the next best thing to growing it yourself. You are able to purchase locally sourced items and, in turn, support the local economy.
Many family farms don’t or cannot produce enough quantities to supply supermarkets, so the weekly sales are welcome additions to their bottom line. It’s a great way to strengthen the urban/rural connection and keep the investment and jobs in our own community.
Vendors support the axiom, “make it, bake it, grow it,” and they live up to that. All food products and agricultural food crop producers are required to complete a course through Alberta Agriculture and Rural Development and display the certificate in their booth.
Labels must contain not only the list of ingredients but the name and address of the person making the product. Through this accountability, the consumer is reassured about the safe handling and preparation.
An added bonus is the fact nothing has travelled great distances and undergone a lot of packaging, so we all help to reduce the greenhouse gas emissions on our planet.
During the long winter months, it’s difficult to locate outlets where some of these products might be found, but I received an unexpected bonus when we took the time to visit The Urban Grocer, in Lethbridge.
The new owners are a couple of family friends for many years. Knowing their focus on all things natural and eco-friendly, we took our recyclable grocery bags in for a look around and left some time later with them filled to the brim.
I was particularly delighted to discover some of the meats and food products, which I had enjoyed from the Farmers’ Market last year.
They also stock many items, which carry certified organic labels as well (which is not an easy thing to come by).
Certified organic growers must guarantee their products are GMO (genetically modified organisms) free from seed to table and their animals are only given feed, which does not contain them either.
To maintain organic integrity, chemical fertilizers and pesticides are not permitted. Canada has strict organic standards and regulations and the Canadian Organic Growers Association has a 40-year history of success.
A trip to Harvest Haven some years ago pointed out a number of the benefits of using natural and/or organic products, so it’s reassuring to know there is another convenient store to visit.
Good as well for entrepreneurial suppliers to have an outlet for their excellent products without the overhead costs of an individual store front.
The expression, “you are what you eat” — has been around for many generations, with individual writers, nutritionists and doctors presenting their own interpretation of what it means.
They all claim to be champions of healthy eating, which in turn creates a healthier life.
For me, it all comes down to having foods which are as close to nature and the producer, as possible.