Warm weather means greater access to local farms and the fresh crops they grow just miles from where we live. While I’m thrilled that Hannaford Supermarket partners with nearby growers, I know it’s something special about visiting a farmers market on the weekend to chat with, and learn directly from, the farmers themselves. If you haven’t had this experience, I strongly encourage you to engage in a conversation with a local producer, as their passion for their work will be undeniable.
There is more to learn from our local producers than just how they came into their business. The right questions can help you make informed decisions. For example, maybe they aren’t an organic grower (to be honest, this is often the case due to cost), but if you learn about their practices then you may find that it matches much of what you are looking for (or seeking to avoid in terms of pesticides for example). Here are some questions to ask that may help you learn more:
Do they use a greenhouse?
Greenhouse grown vegetables are in a controlled environment, which makes for less impact from weather, bugs, and other factors. The result is that fewer (if any) chemicals are needed to protect and grow crops. If you generally seek organic produce, then greenhouse grown may be a close match for you.
Speaking of organic, why aren’t the farmer’s vegetables organic?
This is a very important question for any local grower. It takes three years to turn conventional soil over to organic soil. During this expensive time a farmer can’t consider their produce as organic. This, along with certification fees, may make it cost prohibitive for some. Chat with your local grower to see how they treat their soil, the chemicals they use, and how they approach the use of pesticides. Again, you may just find that their practices match your needs even if they aren’t truly organic.
Your milk is local, but not organic?
When chatting with local dairy farmers it’s very important to understand how their cows are treated and fed, the size of the farms they partner with, and the overall care that goes into getting their milk to market. Depending on what you are trying to avoid, and if the environment is a top concern, then local milk that travels just a few miles (often within 24 hours) may be better than milk that travels across the country (thereby using more fuel). You may find that buying “local” rather than “organic” works for you.
Where do you get your seeds?
It may not be something we think about often, but seeds are the basis for our produce and their origin makes a difference in the growth process and taste of our vegetables. Local, small producers are more likely to be using seeds that were passed through generations or from small seed sellers (unlike very large farms that rely on patented seeds to grow their crops in the most efficient manner).
How can I support you year-round?
This may be one of the most important questions for a local producer. Sure, it’s fun to visit them on a perfect summer day, but they are doing very hard, exhausting work all year to ensure that their land is ready for a lucrative growing season. Maybe they grow cover crops that they wish we were using more in our home menus (cover crops are greens grown in the off season to protect soil). Or possibly they have a small market at their farm that offers other produce or local goods in the fall and winter. They will be grateful to have your year-round support.
Visit the Pawling Farmers Market on Saturdays from 9:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. on the Village Green, or find other local farmers markets by checking out the Local Food Directory at USDA.gov.
As your local Hannaford Dietitian, I’m pleased to be sharing my advice and simple tips. Please visit Hannaford.com/Dietitians online for my in-store schedule of classes, demonstrations, and store tours, or call (845) 855-0553 for more information. You can also follow me on Twitter (@AllisonStowell) or Instagram (@AllisonJStowell).
Chicken Strawberry Salad with Warm Citrus Dressing (2 Guiding Stars)
The sweet strawberries and zesty dressing make this salad near impossible to pass up. It’s especially great now when fresh, flavorful strawberries are available from local farms. For this recipe and others like it visit GuidingStars.com online.
½ cup strawberries
⅓ cup orange juice
2 Tbsp. salad oil
2 tsp. lemon zest
1 Tbsp. lemon juice
1 tsp. sugar
½ tsp. chili powder
¼ tsp. salt
¼ tsp. pepper
1 lb. skinless, boneless chicken breasts
2 cups strawberries
6 cups spinach
¼ cup chopped walnuts
Combine dressing ingredients in a food processor or blender and process until smooth.
Preheat oven to 350ºF. Place chicken on a foil-covered baking sheet and bake until internal temperature reaches a minimum of 165ºF (20-30 minutes).
Bring dressing to a simmer in a small saucepan and keep warm until ready to use.
Slice chicken breasts thin. In a large bowl, toss together salad greens, strawberries, and chicken.
Drizzle warm dressing over salad and sprinkle with walnuts to serve.
Chicken Strawberry Salad is a light, healthy way to kick off summer.