Are your kids already bored with their staycation? You can actually entertain your children, feed them healthier food and save money if you become a “localvore” this summer.A localvore is someone who eats food grown by local farmers. This means eating “in season,” and resisting buying out-of-season foods shipped in from warmer climates.
If switching your buying habits sounds overwhelming, consider this: Now is a great time to make the change, with new farmers markets and cooperative buying options popping up around the Fredericksburg area, and nice growing weather encouraging a beautiful local crop.
Heidi Lewis, coordinator of the Fredericksburg Area CSA Project says, “It was almost too wet earlier in the season, but now is really nice, a lot better than last year.”
Early Morning Fun
One of the easiest ways to get local food is to go to one of the many farmers markets in our area. It’s the ideal entertainment for those early rising toddlers on a Saturday morning. Head down to Hurkamp Park early in the day (M-Sat) and you will find a smorgasbord of colorful vendors surrounding two sides of a lovely park centered around a fountain. Brick steps to climb up and down, flowers to smell, the chance to help mommy or daddy with the bags and the money can make a nice outing. If your children pick out some fruits or vegetables, they might actually eat some once they are home.
Don’t know what to do with some of the vegetables? Many of the vendors can offer you cooking tips and recipes if you haven’t figured out how to prepare swiss chard or eggplant. Let your children help make the dish, eat your healthy lunch and head for the pool armed with cut-up fruit from the market for your afternoon snack.
New Market in King George
Can’t make it downtown to Fredericksburg? Several local farmers in King George County have kicked off a new farmers market in the King George Elementary School parking lot at the corner of 205 and Route 3. “It’s been a real opportunity for home-based businesses (our bread maker), local small hobby farms and proponents of canning,” says Regina Prunty, extension agent of agricultural and natural resources in King George. “It was started by a group of farmers who wanted to offer products directly from King George farms, forests and waters. The market is open on Saturdays from 8 am to 1 pm through October.
Healthier and Cheaper
Registered dietician Elizabeth Pivonka said consumers actually can save money by buying fruits and vegetables that are in season.
“Hard economic times don’t mean that you have to eat less healthy foods,” said Pivonka, who serves as the president and CEO of the Produce for Better Health Foundation. “Buying fresh produce in season ensures that price is the lowest you’ll find all year, and peak season taste and quality can’t be beat.”
Ms. Serrano of the Virginia Farmers Bureau added that through October, while fruits and vegetables are still available, they are generally cheaper at farmers’ markets or farm stands than in grocery stores. And fresh produce contains high levels of vitamins and minerals, which are essential for good health.
“If you can’t afford fresh, then canned or frozen vegetables are an option,” Serrano said. “Plan ahead, and if you find two cans of peas or corn for $1, then buy in bulk.”
No matter how tempting it is to eat unhealthy foods, Pivonka and Serrano both advise against switching to a diet of chips, macaroni and cheese and fast-food burgers.
“While food prices have gone up, produce prices haven’t risen as much as other food groups, so fruits and vegetables are still a good bargain, comparatively,” Pivonka said.
“You don’t have to compromise health and nutrition because of price,” Serrano added. “You just need to adapt to the marketplace by planning ahead.”
If you are concerned about pesticides and other chemicals in your food, you might also want to consider joining a CSA cooperative. CSA stands for community supported agriculture. Local farms that are certified organic, naturally grown, and grass/fed Pasture/fed sell shares of the season’s crops. Once a week, shareholders can pick up a variety of local, organically grown vegetables and fruits. Fredericksburg currently supports two CSAs: the Fredericksburg Area CSA project (FACSAP) and the Canning Farm CSA. Canning Farm CSA opened this year to serve the waiting list of the original FACSAP. Both CSAs are sold out for the year. FACSAP supports 55 families and opens membership in February to previous members first. Try www.facsap.wetpaint.com. About 20 more families are served by the Canning Farm CSA. You can still try to join the Local Flavors Buyers Club, an organization in Sperryville, VA that delivers grass-fed beef, honey, and other organically produced products to Fredericksburg once a month. They can be reached at www.farmbuyersclub.com.
Leigh Anne Van Doren is the publisher of Fredericksburg Parent and Family
More Localvore Activities for Your Family
Grand Opening of Little Farm Exhibit
Children's Museum of Richmond
Hanover Tomato Festival
Black Creek Volunteer Fire Department, Hanover Parks & Recreation, and The Herald Progress
Pole Green Park, Mechanicsville, Virginia
The 26th Carytown Watermelon Festival
Family & Farm Day
Virginia Tech Southern Piedmont Center
Virginia Tech Southern Piedmont Center near Blackstone
License plate sales help preserve Virginia farms
Funds raised by the sale of Virginia agriculture license plates are being used help Virginia farm families develop plans to transfer their businesses from one generation to the next.
Virginia’s Office of Farmland Preservation has allocated $15,300 generated by sales of the “Farming Since 1614” plates to support a range of Virginia Cooperative Extension workshops and programs for farm families and their service providers.
The plates were introduced in 2004 and have generated more than $62,000 for farmland preservation efforts. For every plate sold, $15 of the annual fee goes to support Office of Farmland Preservation efforts.
It’s not too late to order a set of the Virginia agriculture plates. Virginia drivers can purchase them online or request an application—Form VSA 10—at any Department of Motor Vehicles location. In the alphabetical list of special plates on the DMV Web site, the ag plate is listed at “Virginia Agricultural.” In the space on Form VSA 10 marked “Other,” applicants should enter “Virginia Agriculture.”
Understanding Food Labels, As Defined by the United States Department of Agriculture
Free-range/free-roaming: Poultry that has been allowed access to the outside.
Natural: A product containing no artificial ingredient or added color that is only minimally processed (a process which does not fundamentally alter the raw product).
Organic: Animals fed organic feed and given access to the outdoors. They are given no antibiotics or growth hormones.
Scared of Salmonella?
You can keep your children safe from contaminated food with a free phone alert service.
BellTower Technologies LLC, a Dallas-based emergency notification service, has launched a free program that sends alerts about food recalls to consumers by phone.
“If FoodAlert.org helps save even one life, we will consider the project a success,” said Tim Klein, a founding partner of BellTower Technologies. “Consumers typically hear about major food safety alerts through the news media, sometimes days or weeks after they are announced. We think that’s too slow.”
To register, visit http://www.FoodAlert.org and register a telephone number to receive automated notices when a major food recall is issued by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, the U.S. Department of Agriculture or other government agency.
The service will place the calls within hours of a recall being issued.
BellTower Technologies has provided a similar service for a fee to restaurants and other food service companies since 2006. The alert system for consumers is free.
Consumers also can enroll by phone by calling 888-FOODALERT (888-366-3253) from the phone number they wish to register.
E-mail notifications about food recalls by the USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service are available through that agency.