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Farm-fresh food: A guide to local farmers market shopping

FARGO - The month of July brings not only America's Independence Day, but also the first opportunity to buy farm-fresh produce from Fargo-Moorhead farmers markets and produce stands.

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Ella Nelson carries a sample basket at Jen's Homemade Bread stand July 7, 2011, at Farmers Market & Beyond at South Elmwood Park in West Fargo. Forum file photo

FARGO – The month of July brings not only America's Independence Day, but also the first opportunity to buy farm-fresh produce from Fargo-Moorhead farmers markets and produce stands.

PDF: Seasonal buying guide

Although some start sooner, most set up shop in early to mid-July, so by the time you've finished your leftover brats and watermelon, you'll be able to stock up on fruits and veggies grown practically in your own backyard.

Buying local is more than a fun summertime outing. Julie Garden-Robinson, a North Dakota State University Extension food and nutrition specialist, says by shopping with farmers market vendors and produce stands, you're supporting local agriculture, you get the chance to learn about where your food comes from, and you're buying food at its peak.

"In general, the less time the food travels and is stored, the better the nutritional value," she says, "but all forms (fresh, frozen, canned) of fruits and vegetables are nutritious."

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For market newbies, the idea of buying fresh produce from local farmers and gardeners sounds appealing, but where do you go? What do you look for? How do you know if what you're buying is good quality?

Well, for starters, most producers will tell you if it's local, it's fresh.

"If it's grown locally, it's almost certainly going to be pretty fresh, because the viability of our fresh vegetables, they don't last a long time," says Randy Bach of Legacy Gardens and Old Trail Market. "Most of the locals are going to be absolutely same-day, next-day fresh."

While pulling kohlrabi from her land between Glyndon and Hawley, Minn., Amanda Schlenker of Ladybug Acres recommends consumers do a little research before they go searching for the perfect basket of strawberries.

Start by checking out the seasonal food chart, compiled using information from the North Dakota Department of Agriculture, in partnership with the NDSU Extension Service.

Schlenker, who sells her produce in Fargo at the Veggie Barn and on the Veggie Bus, offers "pretty much anything that we can grow up here in the Minnesota area," including strawberries, peas, cucumbers, peppers, watermelon, honeydew melon, kohlrabi, broccoli, cabbage and corn.

Garden-Robinson, also a longtime Forum food columnist, says a range of locally grown produce becomes available in July, but variable environmental conditions may affect the crops.

She suggests looking for radishes, herbs, leafy greens (including spinach, lettuce and Swiss chard), snap beans, beets, broccoli, green onions, peas, cucumbers, currants, grapes, raspberries and strawberries, among others.

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Size, color, texture and smell can all indicate the quality of a fruit or vegetable. Cheryl Stetz of Whistle Stop Farmers Market in Dilworth, which is currently seeking vendors, adds that cleanliness should also be checked.

Once you've made your picks, what do you do with them? Search "cucumber recipes," for example, on Pinterest, and thousands of easy recipes pop up. Most vendors are more than willing to offer advice or recipes, too.

Kim Wangler, who coordinates Farmers Market & Beyond for the West Fargo Park District and is a regular farmers market shopper herself, likes to make salsa, freeze corn, throw veggies into salads and stir-frys and bake with berries.

Besides filling her diet with fresh fruits and vegetables, farmers markets provide a fun atmosphere.

"It's social," she says. "You get to know the vendors, and you always run into somebody you know in the community. It's almost like a little special event to get out and visit with people and buy things at the same time."

Area farmers markets and produce stands

The list of active farmers markets and produce stands in the Fargo-Moorhead area is ever-changing. Let us know if there's one we didn't include, and we'll add it online.

Fargo New Festival Market, seeking location, 3 to 6 p.m. Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays mid-July through mid-October, (701) 588-4316.

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Farmers Market & Beyond, South Elmwood Park parking lot, 500 13th Ave. W., West Fargo, 3:30 to 6:30 p.m. Mondays and Thursdays July 9 through Oct. 1, www.wfparks.org , (701) 433-5360 (West Fargo Park District).

Farmers Market at Dike East Park/Great Plains Produce Association's Community Farmers Market, moved to West Acres, see Northern Plains Farmers Market, below.

Hildebrant's Farmers Market, 349 E. Main Ave., West Fargo, 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday, noon to 6 p.m. Sunday through Halloween, hildebrantsmarket.com, (701) 281-1539 (Trina Kalm).

Ladybug Acres Produce Stand/Veggie Barn, Tesoro parking lot, 2110 S. University Drive, Fargo, Monday through Saturday July 1 through Oct. 1, check Facebook ("Ladybug Acres & Veggie Barn") for exact times, (701) 799-3787 (Amanda Schlenker).

Moorhead Center Mall Market, Moorhead Center Mall parking lot, 3 to 7 p.m. Tuesdays in July and August, 3 to 6 p.m. Tuesdays in September, (218) 299-5340 (Moorhead Parks & Recreation).

Northern Plains Farmers Market, west parking lot of the West Acres mall in Fargo, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday June 23 through October, westacres.com/themarket.

Old Trail Market/Legacy Gardens, Probstfield Farm, 4626 Oakport St. N., Moorhead, call for dates and times, (701) 361-2111, (701) 361-3028 or rbach1559@gmail.com (Randy and Toni Bach).

Red River Market, Broadway and Second Avenue North, Fargo, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturdays July 11 through October, www.redriver.market , (701) 491-8892 or info@redriver.market .

Sydney's Health Market, 810 30th Ave. S., Moorhead, 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, noon to 5 p.m. Sunday June through October (or end of season), (218) 233-3310.

Veggie Bus, 1302 3rd Ave. N., Fargo, first or second week of July through Oct. 1, call for days and times, (701) 799-3787 (Amanda Schlenker).

Whistle Stop Farmers Market, Whistle Stop Park, Dilworth (near the intersection of Fourth Street Northeast and U.S. Highway 10 S.E.), 3 to 7 p.m. Thursdays July 9 through September, (701) 367-0490 (Cheryl Stetz).

Online

North Dakota farmers markets: tinyurl.com/powa2s5

North Dakota Local Foods Initiative: tinyurl.com/pq7bryt

Minnesota-based local food directories: tinyurl.com/puetoy3

Related Topics: MOORHEADWEST FARGOFOOD
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