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Healthy choices at local farmers' markets

Vermont has stupendous harvest: Red juicy strawberries, crunchy peas, colorful lush salad greens, round or icicle shaped radishes with green tops, crinkled and curly leaves of spinach, fresh herbs, maple syrup and honey, fresh bread, meats, and flowers are just a sampling of the weekly offerings at local farmer's markets.

Many markets, such as the Richmond Farmers' Market, have musical entertainment as a backdrop to the social interaction of vendor and customer.

Local farmers' markets are the place to meet neighbors, friends, and make new acquaintances. Check out the calendar of events inside of The Eagle and Rutland Tribune newspapers for business hours of the market nearest you.

A recent count of markets at the Vermont Agency of Agriculture website www.vermontagriculture.com had 50 markets operating in Vermont. There is at least one market in every county; most Vermont counties have six or more markets per week.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) National Directory of Farmers' Markets lists more than 4,700 Farmers' Markets throughout the United States. The number of markets continues to grow, providing consumers greater access to locally grown, farm fresh produce, as well as, an opportunity for buyers to have a personal interaction and connection to the farmers who grow the food. In Vermont the average distance produce travels is less than 50 miles.

Shopping at a farmers' market has the same rules that apply to safe food handling as the supermarket. Fresh produce is fragile and the quality can decline quickly if not properly stored during transit. Items like cheese, meats, and eggs are highly perishable and require refrigeration and should not be left sitting in the car for any length of time. After making your purchases go directly home.

Does produce need to be refrigerated or not? That is the question! It depends! Some items are best stored in the refrigerator; some need to be stored at room temperature, and some may need to be kept at room temperature until fully ripened and then put in the refrigerator!

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