Your Health

Farm fresh

Summer in Manitoba is the best time to buy locally grown fruits and vegetables.

Summer in Manitoba is the best time to buy locally grown fruits and vegetables
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Where to find fruits and veggies

Farmers' Market Association of Manitoba

Manitoba Agriculture local produce guide

Prairie Fruit Growers Association

Winnipeg Health Region
Wave, Summer 2011

Want to eat farm-fresh produce, but don't have the room to grow your own?

Worry not. Winnipeg's farmers' markets, community supported farms and U-pick operations should more than satisfy your needs.

Buying local food is a healthy way to fill your pantry. The closer you are to where the produce is picked means you'll be eating fresh tasting food that contains more nutrients, and doing your part for the environment, says Colleen Rand, Regional Manager of Clinical Nutrition - Community for the Winnipeg Health Region.

"Some foods lose nutrients the further they travel, such as water-soluble vitamins like vitamin C. And the further food is shipped, the larger the carbon footprint it has, which is measured in terms of carbon emissions," says Rand. "Locally grown food also preserves greenspace and agricultural space from development, and you get to know where your food really comes from."

Farm-fresh vegetables don't necessarily come from beyond the Perimeter Highway, adds Rand. There are pockets of produce all over Winnipeg, in some rather unlikely places, grown in a Community Supported (or Shared) Agriculture (CSA) method, which matches farmers with people who want to eat what they produce.

"Community Supported Agriculture farms are where you pay the farmer a fee at the beginning of the season, and they grow the food and deliver boxes of produce during the growing season," says Rand. "One local CSA is the Landless Farmers, who grow vegetables, herbs and flowers near the Pan Am Pool. Not only do they farm without chemicals, they also do all their deliveries by bicycle."

By talking with the farmers, at the market or a CSA, you'll get to know the rhythms of the growing season. In Manitoba, strawberries come onto the market at the end of June and early July. Corn isn't ready for harvest until the end of July, while carrots can still be grown after the first frosts in the fall.

"When you see fresh strawberries in the store in January, you know they have travelled a long, long way. Not only are they lacking in flavour, the local agricultural community does not benefit," says Rand.

Depending on how the growing season progresses this year, you should be able to buy new potatoes and baby carrots at the beginning of July, along with lettuce greens and beans, followed by raspberries, according to Daniel Remillard of the Jardins St. Leon's Gardens market stand in Winnipeg. He buys his produce from a number of local farmers, so when you shop there, you quickly learn the tag "real" applies to locally grown produce. "By the end of July, you'll start to see sweet corn and wild blueberries. 'Real' tomatoes don't show up until August, although those depend on whether the farmer started their tomato plants inside to give them a jump on the growing season," he says.

Along with buying local produce from the CSAs and markets, watch for the Farmto- School fundraiser, a project launched in the fall of 2010, when 35 schools sold vegetables such as potatoes, carrots and parsnips obtained through Peak of the Market. This fall, more Manitoba schools will take advantage of this fundraiser that promotes healthy eating, as an alternative to the usual chocolate bar sales.

Susie Strachan is a communications advisor for the Winnipeg Health Region.

Wave: Summer 2011

About Wave

Wave is published six times a year by the Winnipeg Health Region in cooperation with the Winnipeg Free Press. It is available at newsstands, hospitals and clinics throughout Winnipeg, as well as McNally Robinson Books.

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