Local Bounty: Locally grown food good for your health (sponsored) | TheUnion.com

Local Bounty: Locally grown food good for your health (sponsored)

Valerie Costa
Special to The Union

One of the benefits of living in western Nevada County is the abundance of locally grown food. While some local farms have been operating in the area for generations, others have popped up within the past 10 years by idealistic young people looking to return to our roots.

As a result, you can get locally grown, fresh, organic fruits, vegetables, herbs, flowers, and meats year-round.

But for the produce picked at its peak state, it doesn't come fresher than at your local farmers markets.

Local farms can allow their fruits and vegetables to ripen longer, which adds to nutrition. In fact, the moment a fruit or vegetable is picked it begins to lose its optimal nutritional value.

Vitamins such as A, C, E, and some B start to decrease. Other factors such as exposure to air, temperature changes, and artificial lights also cause the nutritional value in food to deteriorate.

Farmers market produce is typically sold 24-48 hours after being picked, making it fresher than most grocery store produce which may have to travel to reach your grocery cart.

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Most of our farmers markets are now open for the season, offering tables brimming with colorful fruits, vegetables and other local goodies.

The Nevada County Certified Growers Markets operate at three locations around Nevada County from spring through fall. You might also get to hear some great live music and watch children participate in an art project while you're at it.

Another benefit of farmers markets includes being exposed to a wider variety of foods. You may find a fruit or vegetable you've never tried. Most farmers will happily let you sample and may provide recipes or ideas on how to prepare and serve certain foods.

Starting Young

For some, commitment to locally grown foods extends beyond the market. The staff at the nonprofit organization Sierra Harvest know that good nutrition should start young, so they offer several programs that teach children where their food comes from, as well as getting them to try new things on a regular basis. In their Farm to School Program, children plant, nurture, harvest, share, and enjoy fresh local food through a variety of educational experiences.

These include their Harvest of the Month tastings to 6,700 students, weekly produce stands featuring produce from partner farms, classroom visits by farmers and chefs, and field trips to partner farms.

Bringing fresh, local produce into the schools for kids to try every month really works to open their minds to new flavors and textures. In fact, 43 percent more students report that they like the fruits and veggies after they try them at school and 66 percent more students report that their families shop directly from farmers via local markets, CSA programs and more.

"When the guest chef came in with crates of raw kale, I was skeptical, I thought, 'They are never going to go for this,' but at the end of the day, kids were asking for seconds and thirds of kale salad. One eighth grader exclaimed, 'If my mom made kale like this, I would eat it every night!'" said teacher Michelle Mc Daniel.

Community Supported Agriculture

There are also a number of Community Supported Agriculture groups in our region to which you can subscribe to get a weekly box of whatever is ripe that week. The oldest and largest CSA farm in Nevada County is Mountain Bounty, the 50-acre organic family farm located on the San Juan Ridge.

The CSA offers vegetable, fruit, and flower boxes weekly to members throughout Nevada County, Reno and Tahoe. They have pickup locations throughout the region, including one weekly at Dignity Health Sierra Nevada Memorial Hospital.

In addition, some farms have u-pick options throughout the year, so you can get your produce directly from the farmers themselves and take a tour of the farm. U-pick farms include Bierwagen's Donner Trail Fruit, Larkspur Lavender Farm, Lazy Valley Ranch, Riverhill Farm, and Sierra Love Project, which is run by Sierra Harvest.

While it is true that the freshest produce offers the most nutrition, what is most important is that you try to eat five to nine servings of fruits and vegetables daily. Mom was right … eat those veggies!

Local Farmer’s Markets

Downtown Nevada City Summer Farmers Market:  

Saturdays, June 3 – Nov. 18, 8:30 am – 1 pm

The Plaza at Union St. in historic Downtown Nevada City

Nevada County Horseman Tuesdays, May 2 – Sept. 26, 9 am – 1 pm 10600 Bubbling Wells Road, Grass Valley

Western Gateway Park Thursdays, May 4 – Nov. 16, 9 am – 1 pm 18560 Penn Valley Drive, Penn Valley

Thursday Night Market June 29, July 6, 13, 20, 27 & August 3, 5:30pm – 9 pm Downtown Grass Valley

Historic North Star House April 15 – Nov. 18, 8am – 12:30 pm 12075 Auburn Road, Grass Valley

For updates, visit nevadacountygrown.org.

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