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Growing Green

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Did you know that, on average, the food you serve for dinner travels 1,500 miles from the farm where it's been grown to your table? Nowadays, with the emphasis on sustainable farming practices, reduced fuel consumption and global warming, many are concerned about the economic and environmental waste created by shipping meat and produce across the country and often, across the globe.

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Enter the "locavores": people who are making an effort to eat only foods grown or harvested within a 100 mile radius of their home. Although some may think this is extreme, this movement is simply about reducing wasteful fuel consumption and greenhouse gas emissions, enjoying locally grown produce, appreciating seasonal fruits and vegetables, and supporting local agriculture.

Whether you are a "locavore", or are looking for the freshest produce possible, there are many advantages to purchasing local, farm based products. Local food tastes great and is higher in vitamins and anti-oxidant values. Local farmers offer more choices; including heirloom veggies, heritage livestock, and unique products not found in many stores. Buying locally also keeps money in your community, and helps small farmers maintain their livelihood. If you are interested in purchasing more locally grown food, you have many options available to you. This week I am going to highlight one of these wonderful options: the Alexandria Farmers' Market.

Ron Branch, market manager for the Alexandria Farmers' Market, has been actively involved in market gardening for over 20 years. He says that the market is "an adventure where the community gets the unique opportunity to interact with local food producers and connect with their food." The market offers everything from tomatoes to garlic scapes; bedding plants to grass fed beef. The growers can provide many helpful suggestions for preparing the produce they sell, and can introduce you to new experiences in eating. Ron says that, many times, it's the children who come to the market who are most willing to try the new and unusual, so bring them along the next time you visit.

The Alexandria Farmers Market is located at Big Ole Park, and is open on Tuesdays from 9 a.m. to noon, Thursdays from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. and Saturdays from 9 a.m. to noon. Vendors are required to live within a 75 mile radius of Alexandria, and must only sell what they produce. The market typically has 12 vendors but on Saturdays in July and August, the market can have as many as 20 vendors. Come visit the market and check out the wide variety of locally grown produce and meat. Be a locavore! Challenge your old eating habits, experience new, fresh adventures in eating and directly connect with the source of the food you serve.

Next time I will introduce Ploughshare Farm, a CSA farm (community supported agriculture) located in Parkers Prairie. Until then, happy gardening and healthy eating!

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