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June 6, 2007

Purdue expert offers tips for shopping at local farmers' markets

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. - As the local farmers' market season gears up, a Purdue University Cooperative Extension Service educator has some tips and suggestions on how to find the best quality items.

"Shoppers at farmers' markets not only can find a variety of locally grown crops picked at the peak of quality and freshness, but they also can often save money, especially on organic and naturally raised produce," said Roy Ballard, Purdue Extension educator from Hancock County.

Shopping at farmers' markets can be an experience for the family and can be a time to try a new fruit or vegetable, he said. When shopping at farmers' markets, try to remember to bring your own bag and to get there early for the best quality.

When shopping, Ballard said to use your senses to get the best results. Sniff the air when buying fruit to find the most fragrant. Fruit that has ripened in the summer sun always has a sweet smell, he said.

Look for bright colors, and buy brightly colored produce with a waxy sheen. Taste a sample if it is possible. Touch and gently squeeze the produce before you select. Know the signs of quality for each item you select and gain knowledge about the produce.

Ballard suggests asking when the fruit or produce was picked to help determine freshness. Another tip is to store everything that is green in plastic bags in the refrigerator. Always keep tomatoes, garlic and onions at room temperature and keep potatoes in the dark.

"From the farmer's perspective, such markets provide an opportunity to market their products where they might not otherwise have the opportunity," Ballard said. "Farmers' markets are often identified as a place to meet neighbors and build a sense of community while sharing in the local crop diversity as it changes with the progression of the seasons."

More information is available on the Purdue Extension Web site at http://www.ces.purdue.edu/ or call your local Purdue Extension office. Also, to find more information on when produce is at its peak, visit the Indiana State Department of Agriculture Web site at http://www.in.gov/isda/market/Harvest_Calander.pdf .

Writer: Elizabeth Fritz, (765) 494-8402, elfritz@purdue.edu

Source: Roy Ballard, (317) 462-1113, rballard@purdue.edu

Ag Communications: (765) 494-2722;
Beth Forbes, forbes@purdue.edu
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