Benefits of Eating Seasonal Produce

Benefits of Eating Seasonal Produce

We’ve all heard it before – “You should eat seasonal produce”. But…. what does that actually mean?

Seasonality of produce is an important factor of food production, and it varies based on the region or state in which you live (i.e., Michigan has different Summers and Winters than California). Farmers need to be aware of what crops grow best during which seasons in order to have the most plentiful harvest, and consumers need to know the exact same information so they know what to look for in the grocery store or at the Farmer’s Market.

There are plenty of reasons why you should pay more attention to seasonal produce. Purchasing seasonal produce is typically less expensive than buying that same fruit or vegetable during its off-season. This relates to the simple concept of supply and demand; in-season produce is in large supply so it is sold at cheaper prices to maintain demand. Produce is more expensive in its off-season because it costs more to import it from regions of the country/world where production can happen year-round. Buying seasonal produce not only supports your local farmer, but it also supports your wallet!

Many even believe that seasonal produce tastes better. When it is only being shipped locally, the crops can be picked at their peak freshness. Additionally, seasonal produce is grown closer to you so it won’t spoil on the journey from farm to table. Buying seasonally can also help you broaden your palate horizons! We often get stuck in our ways of consuming the same meals with the same ingredients over and over again; buying produce seasonally will help expand your recipe book and expose you to dishes that you would not experience otherwise. This will also help you eat a more well-rounded diet of produce with different nutritional content!

Which fruits and vegetables go with which season, you ask? Well, for starters, take a look at either of these great resources published by Michigan State University: Michigan Availability Guide and Michigan Produce Availability Chart. For example, apples are best during the Fall months of September through November, lettuce and mushrooms are grown almost year-round, and tomatoes are grown during the Summer months of June to August/September. The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) is also a great resource for figuring out which produce go with which season, as well as a source for recipes to use those produce for.

If you want to learn more about seasonal produce, farming, or general health and wellness, come on out to the Fall Open House at The Farm at St. Joe’s of Ann Arbor on Saturday, September 24 from 10a to 2p, located on the hospital campus at 5557 McAuley Dr. This event will feature fresh food samples, health and wellness information, kids’ activities, and farm tours! Click here for more information. We hope to see you there!

Recipe: Peanut Sauce

peanut-sauce

Photo from Leanne Brown’s Good and Cheap Recipe Book

Stop by for some fresh vegetables and peanut dipping sauce at the Farmers’ Market this week! This yummy recipe, from Leanne Brown’s Good and Cheap, is easy to make and adds excitement to any type of produce. Great for individual snacking or as a party dip, this peanut sauce is sure to be a winner!

Warning: Young Minds Photosynthesizing at the Farm

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By Claire Roess, Dietetic Intern, Summer 2016

While hospital-based farms provide healthy and tasty produce for inpatient food trays, they also offer a whole lot more than that. They allow hospital staff members to rent plots and grow their own vegetables, they engage with the community and serve as local places to volunteer, and they form partnerships with neighborhood organizations. Speaking of partnerships, one of the most important roles of these farms is to educate children attending nearby schools.

The Farm at St. Joe’s values such education and aims to “foster joy and discovery through inquiry and exploration of the natural world and food.” Every year, third and fifth graders from Ypsilanti Community Schools come to the farm to learn about how food is grown. Third graders explore the different parts of the plant, and they do interactive activities to understand the differences between soil and dirt and how plants go from seed to compost. Also, they receive a nutrition lesson focused on food advertising and label reading. Additionally, the kids make many observations outside on the farm and predict what will happen in the future. Fifth graders talk about how farming is a science, as it is based on data collection and informed decision-making. They also learn about the life cycle of calcium and do a hands-on activity to model photosynthesis. Furthermore, these students learn about the nutrients in different colored foods and what the nutrients do for the body. They also compare food items in terms of making healthy choices. Both age groups pick and eat a healthy snack during their time at the Farm.

While all of this sounds beneficial, is there any evidence to support experimental garden- or farm-based education? There is, in fact! Several studies show that hands-on interactive activities support children’s development, and hands-on garden activities teach children life skills that allow them to contribute to their local communities. Also, providing education in combination with practical learning resulted in children consuming more fruits and vegetables than if the children only received education and did no hands-on activities. Due to eating more fruits and vegetables, the children also ate more fiber, vitamin A, and vitamin C, contributing to overall healthier eating behaviors. Children became more excited about farming and eating produce when they were able to see firsthand how the food was grown. Therefore, these studies suggest that by supporting hands-on learning, the Farm at St. Joe’s is also helping children eat healthier.

Want to schedule a school trip to the Farm? Please contact Amanda Sweetman at amanda.sweetman@stjoeshealth.org or 734-712-HOOP (4667). We’d love to show you what the Farm is all about!

About Claire:

Claire Roess, MPH, is a Dietetic Intern from the University of Michigan School of Public Health. She completed a two-week rotation at the Farm, learning about planting, harvesting, volunteer coordination, and using farming to educate both children and adults. She is excited to incorporate what she learned into her practice as a dietitian!

Recipe: Vegetable Jambalaya

Vegetable Jambalaya

Photo from Leanne Brown’s Good and Cheap Recipe Book

Vegetable Jambalaya is on the menu at the Farmers’ Market this week! From Leanne Brown’s Good and Cheap collection of recipes, this quick and easy jambalaya recipe is a great way to make sure you eat your vegetables!

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Also this week, make sure you pick up some peppers from the Market! The Farm has too many to count!

Know your Produce: Pesticide Practices at The St. Joe’s Farm

By Molly MacDonald, Dietetic Intern Summer 2016

Pesticide Practices

Any farmer or avid gardener can tell you how annoying it is to have all their hard work literally eaten away by insects and pests. And while some go for the RoundUp or any commercial insecticide on the shelves at Home Depot, here at The St. Joe’s Farm, using natural pesticides, only when necessary, is the go-to. And who are the usual suspects here on The Farm? Well, this year we’re dealing with white flies (pictured above), the occasional flea beetle and the infamously well-camouflaged hornworms, who always enjoy a good meal.

Pesticides, which could be either naturally or synthetically derived, are substances that terminate, repel or alter the functioning of a pest. Natural pesticides, which are primarily used in organic farming practices, could be anything from natural soaps and detergents, to sulfur sprays, or even treating crops with non-pathogenic bacteria.

For instance, when those pesky bugs start making their mark on good produce, The St. Joe’s Farm Manager Amanda Sweetman typically reaches for one of the most-widely used, natural pesticides in organic farming. It is a little microbe known as Bt (which stands for bacillus thuringiensis) that is naturally found within the soil. It thrives off of feeding on larvae and can even produce toxins that can destroy the stomach lining of the insects that eat it. And while its effects sound very unpleasant, it is harmless for humans to consume! The National Organic Program (NOP), overseen by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), follows rigorous standards and regulations of these pesticides to ensure they are safe to consume.

Regardless, pesticides are not loosely used on St. Joe’s Farms. In fact, a lot of the time it’s the natural predators, such as birds and beneficial insects, which are relied upon to keep the pest population down. However, if the crops are showing signs of degradation or damage due to insect and pest abuse, then the bacteria-based pesticide, Bt, will only be used on those damaged crops, specifically. You can think of the pesticide practice here at St. Joe’s as being like an antibiotic treatment. Physicians will avoid prescribing antibiotics unless the patient truly shows signs of needing it; that’s how the plants and produce are cared for here at The Farm.

While this is one way to care for your crops, there are so many other techniques and bug repellants out there. In fact, some people make their own natural insecticides at home! Do you have a garden or farm at home? Try using these techniques to keep your produce looking beautiful!