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Wednesday, May 14, 2008 09:48 am

Get it fresh

Popular downtown farmersÂ’ market opens May 21

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In the past couple of years we’ve begun hearing such phrases such as “Think local, eat local,” “Buy local, eat healthy,” “Buy fresh, buy local,” “100-mile diet,” “Eat-local challenge,” and “Eat close to home.” Essentially they’re all saying the same thing: It’s good to buy and eat locally grown produce. There are many reasons to buy locally grown produce. No. 1: Locally grown produce tastes better. As soon as they are picked, fruits and vegetables begin losing nutrients and flavor. Locally grown vegetables and fruits are usually sold within 24 hours of harvest, ripe, fresh, and loaded with flavor Grocery-store produce, which may take as long as 14 days to arrive at the store, travels an average of 1,300 miles from farm to your table. Buying locally saves on transportation and energy costs while supporting producers in the region. When buying local, remember that availability is determined by the season. Strawberries, for example, won’t show up at the market until late May; they won’t be around after June. A great selection of locally grown products is available at the Old Capitol Farmers’ Market, which opens its 2008 season with a celebration at 10 a.m. Wednesday, May 21. Stop by for live music and free cake by Incredibly Delicious, one of the regular vendors at the market. As in past years, the market — located on Adams Street between Third and Fifth streets — is open every Wednesday and Saturday until the end of October. Regular hours are 8 a.m.-1 p.m. Shoppers will be able to purchase locally grown produce; meat; annual, perennial, and cut flowers; crafts; and baked goods. New additions to the market include an Artisan Area, featuring original artwork, on the first and third Saturdays, June-October. A celebrity-chef demonstration, sponsored by Maldaner’s Restaurant, and musicians will be showcased on the third Saturday of each month. Starting in mid-June, shoppers at the market will be able to purchase reusable shopping bags for $2 each. Wynne Coplea, head of the city’s waste-management program, is coordinating this green effort. She encourages shoppers to do their part to reduce landfill waste by using one of these sturdy, reusable bags. The Old Capitol Farmers’ Market — sponsored by St. John’s Hospital, the city of Springfield, Maldaner’s Restaurant, Illinois Main Street, Music in Communities and Education, Capitol Radio Group, and Illinois Times — is coordinated by Downtown Springfield Inc. For more information, call 217-544-1723 or go to www.downtownspringfield.org/market.htm. This summer, think local when it comes to fresh vegetables and fruits. Your taste buds will be glad you did.
Jennifer Fishburn is a horticulture educator with the University of Illinois Extension Sangamon-Menard Unit. Contact her at fishburn@uiuc.edu.
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