In honor of National Farmers Market Week

I have a lot of fond memories of the huge garden my family habitually planted in my youth, complete with what seemed like every vegetable under the sun. Tomatoes, lettuce, peppers, beans, peas, carrots, onions, radishes, potatoes, beets, corn, squash in all varieties Ė you name it, we grew it. And ate it, usually straight from the garden.

There is nothing like the snap of a carrot just pulled from the earth, or biting into a ripe, juicy tomato still warm from the sun that youíve just plucked from the vine. And donít get me started about beets. I love beets.

Iím getting hungry just think about it.

While we definitely enjoyed the fruits of our labor, there is no getting around the fact that keeping a large garden is a lot of work. It takes unwavering commitment to carry the process through from start to finish.

Over the years, as time was at more of a premium, keeping the garden going started to become more work than enjoyment and the size of the plot grew smaller and smaller as our interest faded.

The last straw was the year my father planted a copious amount of tomato plants, which grew to amazing heights and yielded a tremendous amount of tomatoes. The problem was, they never ripened. (Even after they were picked.) Itís still something of a sore subject.

Youíre not totally out of luck, of course, if you donít grow your own produce. There is always the grocery store. But once you get used to eating ridiculously fresh vegetables, itís hard to resign yourself to pallid supermarket fare. Thankfully there are other options, particularly this time of year when all sorts of wonderful fruits and veggies are available at local farmerís markets, roadside stands and, if you beg well enough, from that neighbor or coworker who (over) planted a garden for the first time this year. (Get it from them while you can, before they learn how to can.)

The beauty of buying from our own backyard is that your supporting local agriculture, and its healthier, too. Apparently, when you eat veggies that have just been picked, they have more nutrients than ones which were picked weeks ago and then transported thousands of miles.

And since there is no need to transport it great distances, less energy is consumed which is good for the environment.

Donít overlook the local economic impact, either more money goes directly into the pockets of our local ag producers, who in turn spend much of it with other area businesses. And most importantly, your tastebuds will thank you.

I tossed around the idea of planting a garden this year, but quickly realized I probably didnít have the time to truly dedicate to making it happen. Not to mention the fact that the indigent population of deer and turkeys which frequent our yard and Woodrow, our resident woodchuck, would probably think Iíd planted a buffet in their honor.

I contented myself with planting a few tomato plants using those nifty upside-down planters. The plants are growing like crazy, and are filled with tomatoes. Some day they may even ripen.

For the time being, though, I will continue to enjoy the bounty available at all our local farmers markets and road side stands, where I get to enjoy all the local, farm fresh fruit and vegetables my little heart desires while letting someone else do all the dirty work.

I strongly encourage you to do the same.

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