by Laura Kocum
on Thursday, April 2nd, 2015 at 1:15pm.
There is nothing quite like a fresh-picked tomato, or the crunch of a newly harvested sugar snap pea. In just a few short weeks, residents will enjoy fresh, Wisconsin-grown produce again. It's time to think spring. And with spring in Madison, comes the re-opening of numerous farmer's markets. The Dane County Farmer's Market returns to the Capitol Square April 18, and leads the way for a large variety of markets to reopen all over the county. There are more than 50 distinct farmer's markets in the region, with Madison offering at least 9. In many cases, the markets are within walking distance from popular neighborhoods like Hill Farms, Sunset Village and Bay Creek. If you ask the locals, one of the major perks of life in Madison is the abundant supply of fresh, locally grown food.
Bowen Close, Communications Director at REAP Food Group, says consumers are recognizing that buying local has multiple benefits. First, the food is fresher, and the nutrient content is higher. Second, buying local supports the local farms, and the local economy. And finally, reducing the transportation costs to bring food in is better for the environment.
There are several ways in Southern Wisconsin to find fresh, local food. First, of course is the farmer's markets. Then there's Community Supported Agriculture (CSA). If you prefer to have your fresh food selected and packed for you, and prepared on a regular basis, CSA's are the way to go. The weekly boxes are delivered to a convenient location, where you pick it up. Now is the time to select a farm, and sign up for a share if you plan to go this route. Several health insurance companies offer rebates for CSA participation.
Finally, there is a long list of local businesses and restaurants that have dedicated themselves to using local foods. "The Midwest, and particularly Wisconsin, has a rich heritage of knowing local agriculture, and supporting local farms. So many residents grew up knowing the farmers, or the area where their food is grown, that the tradition continues, " says Close.
REAP Food Group connects producers, consumers, businesses, and organizations to grow a healthful, just, and sustainable local food system in Southern Wisconsin. The organization publishes an annual guide to finding local food. The guide includes a list of farmer's markets, farms open to the public, and businesses supplying locally grown foods.
Enjoy your fresh food this season, and support the local farms that bring healthy options to your dinner table.