Summertime, and the living is easy

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photo by Donna Evans

Gardening and lifestyle expert P. Allen Smith shares news from his Moss Mountain Farm and Garden Home Retreat near Roland.

Summer is a time to slow down and take life just a little bit easier. It’s a time to practice mindfulness and be present in nature. If you grow your own produce, invite friends, family and neighbors to share in your bounty.

Visit a farmers’ market

It’s no secret I’m a proponent of eating fresh, locally grown produce when possible. I released “Seasonal Recipes from the Garden” in 2010, a cookbook dedicated to creating meals with fresh, in-season produce. Summer in Arkansas is the perfect time to discover fresh, locally grown produce, whether at a farmers’ market or a U-Pick operation.

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Fresh raspberries are among summer’s tastiest treats. Photo by MARK FONVILLE

There are several benefits to buying produce at a farmers’ market or U-Pick operation. First, you get to know your local farmers and learn about their operation. Second, you’re helping the environment. Most food in the United States travels an average 1,500 miles; when you buy from a local farmer, you’re reducing the amount of natural resources needed to purchase your food. Produce for sale at a farmer’s market travels a shorter distance and is typically grown using methods that minimize the impact on the earth. Locally grown food also requires less packaging, which means less waste in landfills. Third, you just can’t beat the taste of a fresh blueberry or a just off-off-the-vine tomato. Finally, shopping at a weekly farmers’ market is a great way to discover an array of produce you never knew existed — heirloom tomatoes, purple cauliflower, even red carrots.

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If you’re looking for a little more hands-on approach to getting your produce, choose to visit a U-Pick operation. U-Pick operations are a great way to get the freshest blueberries, strawberries, blackberries and raspberries. Picking your own produce is also a fun way to spend some family time together — it’s something the whole family can participate in. Freeze some of what you pick so you can enjoy fresh blueberries or strawberries for a taste of summer during the cold winter months.

There are farmers’ markets and U-Pick operations in every corner of the state. You can keep up with a farm’s operating hours by visiting its website or following its Facebook page. It’s always a good idea to call before visiting, as weather can impact a farm’s operating hours.

Promoting Arkansas products

F1-pallen-smith-tomatoes-June-16Growing up, all of my relatives farmed. They had a keen ability to grow just about anything. It left an indelible mark on me, and it’s why I now relish immersing myself in a community of people who also grow and raise their own food. I’m hosting a Farm2Home event for Arkansas-based bloggers this month to learn more about how food gets from the plot to the market. Bloggers will learn about the Arkansas Grown program, as well as food co-ops. They will have the opportunity to learn from those who already grow their own food.

I’ve hosted numerous events for bloggers because I believe strongly in what they do. I used to think gardening was going by the wayside, but knowing where your food comes from, and even growing it yourself, seems to be getting its second wind. I believe that it is due, in part, to bloggers — they have a way of bringing information to people in an easy-to-understand format. My goal for the 2016 Farm2Home is for the bloggers to bring back what they learn during the workshop to their readers. My hope is for more people to seek out locally grown food, and this blogger event is one step in that direction. (Associate Editor Jenny Boulden will attend and write a blog about the event which you will see on this website.

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