This is National Farmers Market Week from Aug. 4-10. It’s that time of year to take full advantage of all the fresh vegetables and fruit that abound at our farmers markets and farm stands. Everyone enjoys sweet corn picked earlier that morning, peaches that drip with juiciness and a range of vegetables for salads, grilling and cooking.

Farmers markets and farm stands usually provide the opportunity to meet and talk to the local growers themselves. We talk about farm-to-fork but when you buy direct from the grower you know that the produce has been grown locally, probably within 50 miles, and picked earlier or the day before. 

The Chester County 2013 Farm Products Guide has a listing of farmers’ markets and farmers’ stands in Chester County and a map showing their location. There are also lots of interesting articles. Check it out at:  www.chesco.org/agdev/farmguide.

The USDA emphasizes that shopping at farmers’ markets is a great way to get fresh, seasonal, locally grown fruit and vegetables. They have a few tips:

~ Don’t let the crowds overwhelm you. Farmers markets can get crowded. Be patient and take your time to check out each vendor’s produce.

~ Arrive early to get the best selection.

~ Stop at each vendor’s stand before making a purchase. Prices and selection can vary from farmer to farmer. Comparison shop.

~ Talk to the growers. Try a sample, particularly of something new. Check out the taste and flavor. Ask how they like to prepare it.

~ Bring your own reusable bag and storage containers for the more delicate fruits and vegetables like blackberries and cherry tomatoes.

~ Share the experience with your friends and neighbors and on Facebook.

Remember that buying local is also supporting local growers and the local economy.

While many markets and stands are only open during the summer months, several are open all year long.