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Growers’ Market Opens: Let’s Talk

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Dr. Deborah Gordon.WELLNESSI love the growers’ markets. My most frequent pick is the Tuesday market at the Ashland Armory (East Main and Wightman), open from 8:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. It’s a special insider-y feeling to visit the market when it opens in March or before it closes in the fall: the farmers, the visitors and the selection is limited compared to the abundant summer season, but the quality is head and shoulders above even the best supermarket selections. You can see the difference in your pick of vegetables as well as the tinier sums of money subtracted from your wallet. There is also a difference you can’t see: organic food purchased locally is vastly superior at doing what you want food to do. Yes, we want food to taste good, but at the end of the day we want it to nourish our physical well-being.

After a single, small study from Stanford in 2012, every study since Stanford’s has validated the huge advantage of eating local, organic produce. Oh, but that’s only if you want less pollution of your air, water, and ground, less internal pollution with chemicals, and a greater selection of nutrients (vitamins and anti-oxidants) on your plate and in your body. And if you want the full benefit of the difference, your food is richer in nutrients if it was raised local to where you live, and spared the long road-trips of nutritional degradation.

Here’s a challenge for you: in honor of food nutrient quality and smaller environmental footprint, I try to follow the one-state rule. I buy produce raised from California to Washington, preferring local Oregon produce when it’s available. I encourage you to try it as an adventure. Sadly, at the moment it’s berries that come from Mexico—counts as two states away. Happily, living in Oregon offers us the tremendous rich food supplies of three states actively growing lots of delicious organic produce.

And what would a good news article be without addressing a little controversy, so here goes.

What if the Growers’ Markets aren’t the best way to go?  Face it, it’s not always easy to add on a trip to the market. When I already “have to” stop at a market for, say—dog food! coconut milk!—it’s a hassle to swing by the market, park a block away, and walk, when I could just pick up some lettuce and carrots from the dog food store. Before you commiserate with me (or laugh), let’s think about what the farmers themselves are facing. Imagine you grow carrots in Williams, and you know your carrots have a wide audience. There really are enough people in the valley to buy them all, but it means selling to restaurants (after many visits to set up accounts) and sending a truck full of carrots, with people, money, tables, and tents, to all the Growers’ Markets in the valley. We’re blessed to have so many, but it means that customers divide themselves, so only ¼ of the customers are at each of the larger markets (two in Ashland, one in Medford, one in Grants Pass) and even fewer if you consider some folks are choosing markets in Cave Junction and Talent Markets! What’s a farmer to do?

Isn’t it a treat when a big problem has a great solution?

At the end of February, the Fry Family Farm in Talent broke ground on what will be a permanent, large farm stand with opportunity for not only their own produce, but samplings from other local farms and vineyards as well. Their new building will host both a 1400 square foot farm stand and a (huge!) 7000 square foot commercial kitchen. The combined offerings of multiple growers as well as commercially prepared foods will be unique and certain to be a huge asset to our area. So sure, in fact, that community, state and federal groups all have helped fund the construction; everyone agrees that quality of life in our region will be enhanced by ensuring the success of our food-producing farms and ranches.

Until the farm stand is completed, though, your best bet for fresh, local and nutritious food, as well as a good chance to get chummy with your local farmer, is your local Growers’ Market. See you there!

Read more of Dr. Deborah’s healthy insights at www.DrDeborahMD.com.


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