by Pat MacIntosh
Many eager gardeners have already started their gardens, but it is not too late to plant! Gardening is great exercise that helps reduce stress, improve mood, and lower the risk of chronic diseases. And studies have also shown that gardeners eat healthier (they eat more fruits and vegetables than other people).
However, what if you can’t or don’t want to grow your own produce? There are several ways you can enjoy the benefits and flavours of fresh fruit and vegetables.
Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) – CSA links consumers with local growers. Members purchase a share of the farmer’s locally grown seasonal produce. Members can expect a weekly share of various fresh fruit and vegetables from about mid-June through September. It may be too late to purchase a share this year, but keep this in mind for 2018. To learn more about CSA in Alberta and to find a grower near you visit: http://www.csaalberta.com/.
Good Food and Fresh Food Clubs – The Good Food Club is a group-buying club for produce in Medicine Hat and area. Produce is purchased from wholesalers and local producers to get lower-cost fresh fruit and vegetables. There are various pick-up depots in Medicine Hat and Redcliff. For more information see: http://foodconnections.ca/club or call 403-502-6096.
There is a similar buying club in Brooks called the Fresh Food Club. For more information follow the Food Coalition Society of Brooks on Facebook, or call 403-363-1048.
Greenhouses and Market Garden Stalls – Many greenhouses in southern Alberta sell produce directly to local customers. Payment is made via lock boxes on an honour system as these areas are not staffed. Produce varies but can include peppers, cucumbers, tomatoes, eggplants, lettuce and herbs. Most greenhouses are located just off Broadway Avenue in Redcliff. There are also growers in Medicine Hat (one is located at the south end of 13 Avenue SE and the other is across from the Desert Blume entrance).
U-Picks – Many local growers let you pick your own food. That is why these are called U-Picks! Common fruit you can find are Saskatoons, black currants, sour cherries, raspberries, strawberries, and rhubarb. There are also many different vegetables such as beans, carrots, cucumbers, onions, peppers, tomatoes, or zucchini – depending on the producer. To find a u-pick near you check your local papers and advertisers, as well as local associations and websites such as www.foodconnections.ca; www.albertafarmfresh.com; or www.pickyourown.org.
Farmer’s Markets – Farmer’s markets offer products that are home-made, baked or grown.
The Medicine Hat Farmer’s Market at the Cypress Centre Fieldhouse, 2055 21st Ave SE, runs May 20 – October 7, 2017, on Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. For more, call 403-527-1234.
The Brooks Farmer’s Market is held at the Kinsmen Building (intersection of 7th St. S.E. and 1st Ave). The market runs every Thursday afternoon, from 3 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. For more, call 403-378-4420.
The Lethbridge Farmer’s Market runs downtown on Wednesdays and at the Exhibition Park on Saturdays. For more information and to find other farmer’s markets in southern Alberta visit: http://www.exhibitionpark.ca/farmers-market/
Active Lethbridge offers a list of u-pick farms in the area, among a variety of other resources that support and promote healthy living: http://activelethbridge.ca/health-nutrition/category/u-pick-farms-farms
The Alberta Farm Fresh Producers Association represents growers across the province. Their members produce vegetable, berry and fruit crops as well as other specialty farm items. The association’s mandate is to bring fresh, healthy, local food and farm experiences to Alberta communities by connecting local farms and local people. Visit their website for a list of farms in your area: http://albertafarmfresh.com. Note: not all growers may be listed here.
However your garden grows, I hope you enjoy the fresh fruit and vegetables that our sunny south grows this summer!
Pat MacIntosh is a Registered Dietitian with Alberta Health Services, Nutrition Services. She can be reached by e-mail, [email protected].