May 2011 Lake Bluff Farmers Market Poster designed by a Lake Forest high school student. (Photo from Lake Forest High School website)

May 2011 Lake Bluff Farmers Market Poster designed by a Lake Forest high school student. (Photo from Lake Forest High School website)

I’m not sure about where you live, but here in the Chicago-land area the temperature can be described as downright fall-like. While the cooler-than-normal temps are a nice departure from the sweltering heat we usually experience this time of year, thinking about fall brings with it some harsh realities… one of which is that fall is when many farmers market close for the season (tear!). Thankfully my local market will be going strong until October (which is months away despite what the mercury says!), but what can you do if your market ends sooner? Or, if you don’t live near one at all? Here are a few ideas to keep the Farmers Market experience near+dear all year long.

Join a CSA

Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) programs have been around for a while, but their popularity has grown in recent years. If you aren’t familiar with CSAs, they allow you to buy local, seasonal food directly from a farmer. When you join you purchase a “share” (yes, like stock!) and your share entitles you to a box (bag, basket) at certain intervals (usually weekly) throughout the season. The growing season for your CSA may be similar to the season for your local Farmers Market, but some offer year-round delivery. Enter your zip code in the “Find a CSA” widget from Local Harvest to find CSAs in your area.

Shop Locally and Online

You may not realize it, but some of your favorite vendors may sell their wares at places other than the Farmers Market. Next time you visit the market, be sure to ask the merchants if their goods are available online or in any local shops. Last year I discovered Pigtail Twist Gourmet Dressings at the farmers market and learned they are available online and also in a local grocery store that I usually don’t visit since it isn’t the most convenient to my home. I was one happy camper when I learned that I could enjoy their Three Berry Vinaigrette all year long without stocking up on bottles before the end of summer!

Be a Farmers Market Tourist

A few years ago we went to Hawaii in December and one of the very first things we did when we arrived was visit a local Farmers Market. Tasting local flavors and produce you might not find anywhere else in the world is a great way for you and your family to experience wherever your travels take you. Plus, the burst of fresh flavor will surely snap you out of any winter doldrums that you might have been experiencing before vacation!

Fresh, local produce from our December 2008 vacation to Hawaii (makes me want to go back!)

Fresh, local produce from our December 2008 vacation to Hawaii (makes me want to go back!)

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