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Seasonal Eating

What is Grown in Indiana?

The climate and land available in Indiana allow us to produce most commonly consumed fruits and vegetables. Indiana growers produce summer squash, winter squash, melons, tomatoes, peppers, okra, cabbage, salad greens, corn, potatoes, onions, garlic, herbs, berries, apples, stone fruits like cherries and peaches… the list goes on and on.

However, there’s a catch to the accessibility of this great bounty. Plants have various temperature and light requirements for growth. Thus, each plant must be grown during their preferred season for optimal production. Tomatoes love hot summer days. Cabbage fancies the cool air of spring and fall. Living in a region with four distinct seasons, we can enjoy watching the ebb and flow as different types of produce flood the markets and then diminish.

What is in Season?

The Purdue Extension FoodLink chart shows when many Indiana grown foods are in season. While this chart lists many fruits and vegetables, don’t think that the absence of a food means we don’t grow it!

Why Eat Seasonally?

Buying seasonal produce at your local farmers’ market is an excellent opportunity to get your family outside walking, but the health benefits don’t end there. Eating with the seasons encourages consumption of a greater variety of foods. Different fruits and vegetables contain varying amounts of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and other important nutrients.  Not to mention that the foods you will be eating are fresher and often harvested at peak nutrition and ripeness. This also leads to better flavor, whereas produce grown elsewhere during our off-season is picked days to weeks prior to consumption and ripens on the shelf or is force-ripened by ethylene gas. Produce that ripens off the vine tends to be less flavorful than fresh, vine-ripened counterparts. Finally, benefit from the cost savings of shopping with the seasons. When fruits and vegetables come into season in the U.S., the supply is bountiful and doesn’t have to travel so far to reach us, resulting in lower prices at the market. If you would like to enjoy all these benefits year round, you might benefit from our "tab" on "Food Preservation".

Seasonal Produce Purchases Often Support Local Farmers!

The right recipes can provide additional inspiration for seasonal meals. You can find many seasonal recipe sources online, like the simpleseasonal.com food blog. If print books are more your style, check your local library for seasonal recipe books! Simply in Season is an excellent cookbook filled with family recipes organized by the season of the ingredients.

 Why Eat Local?

  • It’s Seasonal! – Eating locally is eating seasonally!
  • Flavorful Food – Local farmers often grow tastier varieties of produce, picked at or near the peak of ripeness. The varieties of produce shipped in from elsewhere are bred for shelf life and superficial appearance rather than flavor, and often picked long before natural ripening.
  • Nutritious Food – Local producers offer fresher foods with more nutrients. Enzymes in fruits and vegetables begin breaking down nutrients soon after being picked. Eat your foods as fresh as possible to obtain the most nutrition. Locally grown produce also comes in more varieties. For example, you might find orange, yellow, pink, or even purple tomatoes at your local farmers’ market, whereas imported tomatoes generally only come in the standard red. Many of the pigments behind the myriad colors have been shown to improve health. This is why experts recommend eating a colorful diet1. Further, the health of the soil impacts the healthfulness of the produce. Well-managed soils contain many minerals for the plants to absorb, and minerals are important for health. Unfortunately, many large-scale producers only add the minerals that directly affect production yield; when you buy local you can buy from producers you trust to take care of their soils2.
  • Traceable Food – When you purchase from local producers, you know exactly where your food came from. You can ask your farmer about his/her farming practices, and maybe even go see the farm for yourself. When our country is hit by massive food recalls (such as the bagged salad, peanut butter, and tomato recalls of recent years), a lot of food goes to waste due to the large aggregation at major distributors and fear from the public. Local food has experienced fewer opportunities for contamination, and knowing where your food came from can offer peace of mind.
  • Community Building – Be part of a more vibrant community by engaging with local farmers, business owners, and other community members.
  • Support the Local Economy – Shopping local keeps more money in your community. A study conducted in Western Michigan found that 68% of money spent at local businesses stays in the community, versus only 43% of money spent at non-local businesses (see image above). Local businesses are more likely to utilize locally based services, buy supplies from local producers, and make charitable investments in the community.
  • Educate Children – Take your children with you when purchasing food. They will enjoy seeing, smelling, tasting, and feeling the different varieties of produce. Teach them the value of purchasing locally and seasonally. Doing so will prepare your child to make informed food choices to maintain the health of their community and themselves long-term.

Learn More About the Economic Impact of Local Food and Businesses

USDA Economic Impact Toolkit and Case Studies on the variety of local food system initiatives and their economic impact on communities, regions and states.

Works Cited

  1. Taste a Rainbow...of Fruits & Veggies
  2. Dirt Poor: Have Fruits and Vegetables Become Less Nutritious?


Learn more about the fresh fruits and vegetables we grow in Indiana, when to find them at your market or grocery and how to choose the freshest, store it at home, prepare for your family and preserve! It's all in the Purdue Extension FoodLink Database!

Food Preservation
Food Labels
Food Waste
Farmer's Market
Food Councils
Food Insecurity
Donate Local Food
Food Value Chains
Grants and Fundings
Small Business Development
Food Hubs
Food and Community
Local Food Economies

Food Production


Local Food Sales Channels

Direct sales involve selling product to the final consumer where the food producer is also involved in other supply chain activities such as distribution, marketing, retail activities and education. For farmers, direct sales require more skills than just running the farm operation. Direct sales skills could include branding, communication, logistics, and employee management.

There are several types of direct sales channels, including:

Farmers' Markets Roadside Stands Community Supported Agriculture(CSA) U-Pick
Agritourism U-Pick Online Sales Home Delivery


Intermediated sales involve other supply chain partners to move product from the farm to the consumer. An intermediary would take care of the final marketing of a product, like signage and product information, and allow farmers to focus on their core farm business.

Examples of intermediated sales channels include:

  • Food Hubs
  • Grocers
  • Restaurants
  • Food Services at Schools and Universities

Wholesale market channels involve selling through a distributor that acts as a middleman between the farm and the final point of sales. Wholesale channels allow farmers to focus on their core farm business because a wholesaler does the hard work of finding customers. Wholesale market channels typically require larger quantities of products at a lower price than other local food channels.

Examples of wholesale market channels include:

  • Food Hubs
  • Food Distributors
  • Co-packers
  • Produce Auctions
  • Produce Brokers

Online market channels provide farmers a way to directly link producer/provider to buyer. Producers are able to log in and provide prices, products and quantities, and buyers are able to purchase and pay using a payment system. There are a number of apps and products out there for a farmer to use. Here are a few examples:

Small Farms Central - Service that includes website,  e-commerce and marketing tools

Farmzie - E-commerce App for growers and buyers

Local Dirt - Online and app marketplace for growers and buyers

Definition of 'Local'

Nearly everyone has a definition of local when it comes to food and there is not a technical definition. It is most often defined geographically such as 'within a county' or 'from my state.' The USDA defined local food for marketing purposes in the 2008 Farm Act as related to the Rural Development Value Added Producer Program as food that has traveled less than 400 miles or is produced within a state. The USDA Economic Research Service clarifies many definitions and concepts in their report, Local Food Systems: Concepts, Impacts and Issues.

In 2014, the Indiana State Department of Agriculture directed the research on the feasibility of a food hub network for Indiana and in that reportCapture, consumers, farmers and food producers contributed their definition of local food. The largest percentage (40%) of respondents defined 'local' as food from within 50 miles, with the majority of respondents (78%) defining food as being produced within 100 miles or within the state of Indiana.


Selling Local Food to Schools: A Resource for Producers - USDA
USDA resource that quickly goes over strategies and processes of selling local food products to school districts.
Selling Strategies for Local Food Producers - University of Missouri Extension (G6222)
A comprehensive guide that discusses a customer-centric approach to sales and marketing of farm products through direct sales channels like farmers’ markets and roadside stands.

Indiana Market Maker

It provides powerful search tools that connect the production and distribution chains. It can be used to conduct market research. Food Industry MarketMaker is a network of Land Grants, Departments of Ag and food organizations that have invested in a virtual infrastructure to bring local food to the consumers. A large in-depth database connecting markets from farm to fork. It has a diverse community of farmers, fishermen/women, food retailers, farmers’ markets, processors, wineries, and restaurants.

On-Farming Food Safety

Food Value Chains

Food value chains can foster collaboration on new market enterprises, mitigating risk for the farmer, supply chain partners and buyers. By creating stable markets, farmers and food entrepreneurs are finding new opportunities in the marketplace.

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Grants and Fundings

Federal and regional granting agencies and organizations have money available for local food system projects. Some grants are for farmers to add value to farm products they produce. Some are for farmers’ markets, or for non-profit agencies. Local foundation dollars can often be leveraged for larger grants or to address an initiative like doubling food dollars for SNAP recipients at the Farmers’ Market.

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Small Business Development

Small businesses are propelling the growth of local food sector up and down the local food supply chain. At first, we might only think of the vendor at the farmers’ market selling pickles as the main type of small business in local food. On closer examination, we see that there are small businesses operating urban farms, hydroponic farms, food hubs, local food restaurants, meal delivery services, and more.

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Food Hubs

According to the USDA working definition, a food hub is “a business or organization that actively manages the aggregation, distribution and marketing of source-identified food products primarily from local and regional producers to strengthen their ability to satisfy wholesale, retail and institutional demand.”

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