Richard Bogren, Hodson, Pamela | 8/2/2011 12:24:40 AM
News Release Distributed 08/01/11
The U.S. Department of Agriculture has declared Aug. 7-13 as Farmers Market Week.
The annual designation is intended to further awareness of farmers markets and the contributions farmers make to the daily lives of Americans, said LSU AgCenter public relations and information specialist Pam Hodson.
The USDA estimates more than 1 million people visit farmers markets weekly, representing more than $1.2 billion annually in direct-to-consumer sales, Hodson said. Sales generated at farmers markets are reinvested in the local economy, providing significant benefits to Louisiana’s local communities.
A listing of 148 Louisiana markets – which include public farmers markets, roadside stands and farmer-operated stores – can be found on the Internet at the Louisiana MarketMaker website, http://la.marketmaker.uiuc.edu/.
Managed in Louisiana by the LSU AgCenter, MarketMaker is an Internet-based service that helps consumers find food products, such as vegetables, fruits, grains, meats and seafood, and value-added items that may be locally grown, in-season or organically produced among other attributes.
“With one ‘click,’ the entire list of markets will appear, including information on each market’s days and hours of operation,” she said. Another feature of La. MarketMaker is a mapping system that provides directions to each location.
Hodson recommends the following guidelines for shopping at a local market:
– Take canvas or net bags or baskets. Wide, woven baskets help prevent produce from piling on each other.
– Place heavier items at the bottom of the basket or bag.
– Ask questions. Most farmers and vendors love to share what they know and may be able to give you cooking and recipe hints.
– Look for produce that is free from unusual odor or color and signs of spoilage, such as mold.
– Try not to over-buy. Aim to buy foods you’ll eat now when they are fresh.
– Select an amount you can use within a short time.
– Go straight home from the market because foods will decline in quality, and perishable foods like meats and eggs can become safety hazards if they’re not refrigerated quickly.
– Avoid placing produce in a sealed plastic bag on your countertop. This slows ripening and may increase off odors and decay from the accumulation of carbon dioxide and depletion of oxygen inside the bag.