Summer is here, and fresh local produce is abundant! Strawberries and saskatoons, zucchini and rhubarb…you’ve dreamed of this time on long winter nights. Fresh local vegetables have better taste and higher nutrient content when brought straight from the farm to your plate. Plus, shorter travel distances and better taste mean you’ll be helping to prevent food waste through losses in travel, spoilage, and tossing unwanted veggies at home. It’s easier than ever to buy local produce, whether you live in the country or the city. Here are four ways to get the best of what Manitoba farmers provide.
Local producers gather at farmers’ markets throughout the province to sell a variety of fresh vegetables, fruits, baked goods, preserves and unique crafts they have grown, picked or made. Each vendor has a separate stand at the market. There are 46 farmers’ markets across Manitoba with 13 located in or near Winnipeg. Brandon has one at the Town Centre Parkade on Saturday mornings. For more information on where to find farmers’ markets across the province, please visit the Farmers’ Markets Association of Manitoba website.
U-Pick Vegetable Gardens
Harvest your own vegetables at these gardens while enjoying the fresh air and exercise. Not only do you get fresh picked veggies selected by you, but you can also get a chance to speak to the growers one-on-one. There are a variety of places in Manitoba and a variety of crops for you to try. Visit the PickYourOwn Manitoba website for more information.
Pre-picked Market Stands
These are similar to farmers’ markets in that producers grow and pick their own produce. However, these stands are often found on the sides of roads or near the farmer’s property with one vendor rather than a selection. Buyers are often able to speak with the farmers first-hand about the produce and growing process. Each stand is unique! They can sometimes be found in various places in the city, so keep your eyes open on the commute home!
Community Supported Agriculture (CSA)
CSA farms are unique in that participating consumers are connected directly to the farmer who produces the food. For a pre-determined fee that is paid directly to the farmer at the start of the growing season, you acquire a share of the vegetables and goods they produce. Basically, for supporting a local producer, you receive the freshest veggies virtually the day they are picked to use in your kitchen only a short distance away. You can read more about CSA farms on the CSA Manitoba website. Consumers also share risk with the farmer. In any given year, one crop or another may do better or, sometimes, less well than in other years. The customer gets what the land provides that week, and shares both the benefits and the risks of their relationship with the farmer. Some CSA producers offer volunteer opportunities for customers who want to participate actively in the process of growing and harvesting food.
For a more comprehensive guide, you can check out the 2016 Manitoba’s Local Produce Guide put together by the Province of Manitoba. It includes helpful tips, maps, and contact information for local producers around the province. For information on a wider range of food issues — from growing your own to healthy eating to food security in the North — visit the Food Matters Manitoba web site. Do you want to buy local but find that it’s straining your budget? West Broadway Community Organization has some resources to help you get started!
However you choose to buy your veggies this summer, remember your local Manitoba options and enjoy the best of what our hard-working and committed farmers provide.