Don’t forget about year-round markets!
When you buy produce at a farmers market, you can usually guarantee that it has been picked that very same day. You are also eating in season when fruits and vegetables are at peak freshness, flavor, and nutrition.
There has been an increase in year-round farmers markets in King County over the past decade that provide shoppers with access to local food and new varieties of fruits and vegetables throughout the year. Consumer support and farmer participation makes year-round markets successful in King County and allows markets to continue to change and expand to meet demand.
“Year-round markets give farmers the opportunity to obtain income for 12 months instead of six to nine months in a year,” said Jennifer Antos, Executive Director of the Neighbor Farmers Markets. “This additional income helps farmers invest in their farms and who they hire to ultimately improve their operations.
“Farmers also greatly appreciate customer loyalty and work hard to offer farm products that their customers desire,” she said.
King County year-round farmers markets include: University District, Capitol Hill, Ballard, West Seattle, and Pike Place. A few types of produce you can find at year-round markets include potatoes, kale, spinach, swiss chard, leeks, and many different types of herbs.
Visit Tilth Alliance’s Farm Guide for more information on the days and times in which these markets are open!
Join a Winter CSA
Get fresh and local produce during the winter months and delivered close to your home by subscribing to Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) – a subscription program where weekly boxes of farm-fresh local fruits and vegetables are delivered weekly to multiple locations. Recipes and cooking tips are often included to help customers use produce that is unfamiliar to them. In a typical winter CSA box, you can find kale, spinach, squash, potatoes, and many other types of greens and herbs!
Tilth Alliance’s Farm Guide is a useful tool to see which CSA program is right for you.
Visit U-Picks and farm stands
Farm stands are located near farms and are owned and run by the farm. You can buy produce from the farm at these stands frequently located road sides or outside U-Pick farms.
Tilth Alliance’s Farm Guide also has information about how you can find U-Picks and farm stands near you. Using the farm guide, you can find information about farms and visit their websites for more information about their operations.
Know what’s in season
You may have heard about eating “in season,” but what does that really mean? Eating fruits and vegetables “in season” means that you are purchasing and eating foods around the same time that they are being harvested from farms in our region. Learning what’s in season helps you know what to expect at year-round farmer’s markets and often can help you determine which items at stores may be from local sources, and which ones are not.
Seasonal eating also has many benefits. According to WSU Extension, buying fruits and vegetables in season is often much more affordable. Check out the table below to learn which fruits and vegetables are in season during the winter months:
To read more about eating in season, visit Washington State University’s article here.
Eat at restaurants that source locally
Continue supporting local farmers even when you eat out! Many restaurants in King County have been making the switch to local food because their customers are demanding it.
“Diners are asking more specific questions about where their food comes from,” says Andrea Porter, Seattle Made Program Manager at Seattle Good Business Network. “They don’t want to pay high prices for food that isn’t high quality. Produce loses a significant amount of nutrients when it isn’t sourced locally, and customers are starting to notice.”
Local produce may be more beneficial for consumers, but it isn’t always easy for chefs and restaurants to source locally.
“I can see how chefs and restaurateurs can find sourcing locally difficult due to potential high costs of local food and difficulty finding farmers who are growing the specific produce they need,” says Luke Woodward, owner of The Grange Restaurant. “However, I really think organizations like Farmstand Local Foods and Puget Sound Food Hub have made it easy and convenient to find fresh local food. These organizations remove many barriers to sourcing locally.”
The Grange Restaurant also finds ways to adapt and be creative in order to stay in line with their core message: Always follow yields from farm fields. Sourcing from local farms is important to them as well as many other restaurants in the area. Be sure to check out Seattle Good Business Network’s website for more information about restaurants that source locally.