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.
Preserving foods picked in season at peak ripeness seals in nutrition and flavor. Seasonally purchased produce is also cost effective, and you can cash in on that benefit by purchasing in bulk and preserving for later enjoyment.
In supermarkets filled with an average of 42,214 different items, it can be difficult to sort through all the colorful food packages boasting different attention-grabbing infographics to find what you’re looking for. Sometimes products even boast claims that look reasonably attractive, but aren’t legitimate. How do you know? This page will help define food labels as they are related to farm and processing practices, regulated and monitored by the USDA (US Department of Agriculture) and other organizations. Labels for allergens and nutritional content are handled by the FDA (Food and Drug Administration).
Visiting the farm with your family can offer everyone a great insight into how food is grown, where it comes from and what a farm lifestyle might look like. In Indiana, we have over 200 agritourism operations, some are U-pick, some are more like a store, some have lots of activities for the whole family. Often they are seasonal and the season depends on what they grow!
Food waste is an enormous problem in the world, and it is especially problematic in North America, where each individual wastes more than 250 pounds of food per year on average. Not counting the farm-to-retail waste that occurs, the US is responsible for more than 133 billion pounds of food waste each year, and roughly two thirds of this occurs in homes and restaurants.
Farmers’ Markets are a vital part of Indiana’s local food system enabling community and consumer engagement with regional farmers. For years, farmers have worked to educate consumers about growing and eating fresh whole grown/raised food and that education takes place at every market. Since 2009, the number of farmers’ markets in Indiana has doubled; we now have 177 throughout Indiana. The surge in interest and shopping at farmers’ markets is an important component of any community food system, and can be a great launching point for new or beginning farmers, and those looking to diversify their market channels.
Food Councils are a vital part of a community food system. They enable community members to have input into policy and initiatives that affect the local food system. Councils can also be the place to network community members who wish to engage with others passionate about the local food system. Councils can work in the nuts and bolts of the food system, such as launching a food hub, setting up a community garden or starting an urban farm project.
It’s a grim topic but has rather been watered down throughout the years to yet another commonly heard, impersonal colloquialism. But hunger and food insecurity, for the sake of those affected, shouldn’t just be brushed over and ignored – especially because it’s a struggle that isn’t unique to third-world countries. It’s a very real problem in America, including Indiana.
With about 14% of Indiana households struggling with food insecurity, there’s no question regarding the importance of community involvement and volunteering. Whether donating time, funds, or food items, any and all help is needed. In fact, there is a little known way that individuals can help provide food – gardening! If you have a garden or a farm of any size, you can donate your fresh produce to local food pantries and soup kitchens! Fresh produce is actually among the most needed of all food items, due to the logistics of storing the fruits and vegetables.
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.
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.
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.
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.”