We have finally come into a “true summer” as the temperatures start to soar in our region. The spring was long and wet, and we were thrown into the heat seemingly overnight. Raising livestock during the cooler months was a welcome relief after the record-breaking heat wave we experienced last summer. The grass is still lush and my lambs, cows, and goats are grazing through endless pasture.
Due to the wet spring and delayed summer temps, gardeners and farmers who grow fruits and vegetables have been experiencing a strange growing season. Seeds took longer to germinate because of cool soil temperatures, pests who love moisture chowed down on struggling seedlings, and transplants sat in place without putting on new growth. Farmers are feeling the pressure of the delayed season and it has put us behind on some crops that would be booming right now, if the summer played out like it did last year.
Thanks to the sudden burst of intense heat, however, things are finally turning around and gardens are exploding with growth.
Farmers’ market booths are starting to transition from cool weather crops like turnips, kale, and lettuce into robust summer crops like zucchini, onions, and tomatoes. Everyone gets excited for the fruits and berries to start arriving on the market stands and they are starting to come on heavy. Blueberries are my favorite and should be arriving any minute – I always buy more than we will eat fresh to freeze for later.
Farmers’ markets are an excellent place to source local meat, seafood, and eggs. Purchasing meat from a local producer is oftentimes the beginning of a relationship that benefits the farmer through repeat visits, and the purchaser who becomes fiercely loyal to their farmer. Ask anyone who has ever purchased locally raised bacon and they will tell you that it was the best bacon that they have ever eaten and follow it up with the name of who they bought it from.
Local eggs have yolks that put the eggs that have traveled hundreds of miles to the grocery store shelves to shame. If you really want to level up your brunch game, simply fry a local egg and serve it on some fresh, market bread.
Farmers’ markets can have a reputation of being exclusive or too expensive for folks who are on a budget. Eating fresh and seasonal food is for everyone! There are a few different programs that make it possible for anyone to have access to what their local farmers work hard to produce.
If you are eligible for WIC, they provide vouchers to use at markets for fruits, veggies, and herbs. Income qualifying seniors can apply for vouchers as well, and in addition to fruits, veggies, and herbs, they can also buy local honey. Market stands that accept the vouchers display a sign at their booth so you know where to shop.
If you have a SNAP/EBT card, you can use it at most farmers’ markets. The markets have an info booth where you can swipe your card for a certain amount and receive tokens to spend at booths for qualifying food purchases. Plant starts and seeds are also eligible to be purchased with EBT. Participating markets have a program called SNAP Market Match Currency which matches your allotted spending dollar for dollar up to $40 per day.
If you are looking for local markets in your area, a quick Google search will pull up sources with when and where the market near you is happening (find Spokane farmers markets here!). Social media accounts for these markets should post a schedule as well as the availability of incentive programs and whether or not they accept EBT – which is helpful to know before you head out. So, get out there and enjoy the bounty of our beautiful region!
By: Whitney Jacques