Check out your local farmers market
Americans have it easy.
Even out here, in the middle of the continent, we have access to fresh fruits, vegetables and produce of nearly all types, 12 months a year, and at a reasonable price.
Retailers are becoming even more responsive, offering organic and freshly grown produce as it is available.
Still, there's nothing like raising it yourself. And, despite fast, efficient distribution systems, nothing tastes as good as a fresh tomato or batch of green beans straight from the garden.
As much as we enjoy garden-fresh groceries, we don't all have the opportunity to coax vegetables from the ground each summer. Many of us don't have the time, others don't have the inclination, and still others don't have the green thumb it takes to keep a plant alive long enough to yield its fruit.
Never fear, Farmers Market time is here!
McCook's version starts 8 a.m. Saturday in the parking lot between Peterson Jewelry and Farrell's Hallmark, in the 100 block of West B in McCook.
According coordinator Ivan Schmid of the McCook Main Street program, no fee will be charged for vendors, and homemade crafts will be allowed if the vendor also is selling produce.
And, all food products must meet the approved standards established by the applicable regulatory agency.
As Elisha Greeley Smith of the Center for Rural Affairs points out, produce picked at the peak of the season carries more nutrients and phytochemicals such as beta carotene, lycopene and others. These phytochemicals occur naturally in plants and protect against cancers and strengthen collagen proteins, she said.
And it won't just be garden product that you'll find at a Farmers Market. You might also find honey, farm fresh eggs, nuts, flowers, nursery plants and other foods.
And McCook isn't the only community lucky enough to have friends willing to share of their abundant produce at a farmers market.
Others are set for St. Francis, Norton, Oberlin and Curtis, for instance, -- check with local officials to find out exactly when they'll start and where they'll be.
Elsewhere, log on to http://www.ams.usda.gov/farmersmarkets/map.htm and see if there might be one close to you.
If your garden is doing especially well this year, why not make a little extra money selling your produce?
And if you've got a taste for garden-fresh vegetables, check out the Farmers Market in your community.