If you cook or eat, this is your time. Even if you just like to graze and gaze, you can get into the action, too.
With spring meandering steadily into summer-like temperatures since March, crops in the Charlotte area have gotten a head start this year. Farmers markets are already filled with asparagus, while strawberry fields around here report picking weeks ahead of schedule. Blueberries and blackberries are expected to start a little early, too.
Whether you subscribe to a farm’s harvest through community-supported agriculture programs, go to a farmers market every weekend to fill a basket, or drive to a farm to pick what you eat, you’re taking part in something that has grown into a big industry nationwide. A few numbers released a few weeks ago by the U.S. Department of Agriculture:
▪ U.S. local-food sales hit $12 billion in 2014, up from $5 billion in 2008.
▪ More than 160,000 farmers nationwide are selling directly to local markets, CSAs, restaurants and stores.
▪ The USDA farmers market directory lists more than 8,500 nationwide, up 93 percent since 2006.
However you get your hands on locally grown produce, it’s clear that Americans have gotten very committed to eating food that’s grown close to home.
This year, we combined our annual lists of pick-your-own farms and farmers market, giving you plenty of choices in getting out to get it fresh. We also put them online as a searchable database – with a map – so it’s easy to pick out spots that are most convenient for you. We hope you’ll bookmark the lists and use them all summer.
Grab a basket or a few sturdy bags and get going.