Now is a great time to get bargains from local farmers markets to can vegetables or make preserves for winter.
Photo by Courtesy Washington University
Those who practice "homesteading"—or self-sufficiency—are busy preserving or "putting up" the produce they have grown this summer. But urban homesteaders who may be limited in the amount of land available to them aren't left out in the cold. In fact, they have a cornucopia of fresh fruits and vegetables available to them—as close as the local farmers market.
As always, now is a great time to buy what's available. At this time of year, most farmers are wrapping up their traditional growing time and looking forward to a final fall harvest and a winter season of rest.
The amount of available fresh foods lull consumers who may not be buying as eagerly as they did early in the season—many may even be burned out on local crops. This all works to urban homesteaders' advantage, because a customer who wants to buy in bulk can usually obtain a bargain.
A tip: Go to the market just before closing time. While some of the items may be sold out or picked over, farmers are usually more than willing to sell the remainder at a huge discount just so they don't have to haul it back and compost it or give it away.
Another tip: No matter what time of day, you can usually barter down the price of a bruised or picked-over item. In fact, some farmers could throw in the damaged items for free if you buy others in quantity and offer to take them off his hands. You can cut out any bad parts of fruits or vegetables without harming the taste. And remember: If you are dicing them for canning or making preserves, it doesn't matter what they look like.
Lastly: Quiz farmers over their growing techniques. Organic is the way to go.
Some local farmers aren't "certified" organic (the Mississippi Department of Agriculture ended its organic-certifying program in December due to budget cuts), but they may still be using organic methods. Most farmers will be more than happy to tell you how they grow their crops. If they don't—or won't—don't buy.
Canning and Preserving Food
The Mississippi State University Extension Service has publications on how to safely preserve food and other issues of interest to urban homesteaders, including:
"The Complete Guide to Home Canning" (http://www.msucares.com/pubs/publications/p1152.pdf) and a library of articles grouped under Living In a Recession (http://www.tinyurl.com/clldul3).
Seminars on Agritourism, Growing Fruits & Vegetables
Did you know that agritourism is a growing field in the state? Or that you can hobnob with fruit and vegetable growers to learn from them directly?
The Mississippi Fruit and Vegetable Growers Association and the Mississippi Agritourism Association are holding seminars for the public at a conference in Jackson Nov. 28 and 29 at the Hilton Hotel on County Line Road. Early bird registration ends Sept. 15.
For more info, http://www.visitmsfruitandveg.com or email firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also contact Candi Adams at 662-534-1916 or email@example.com.