As the days grow warmer in Atlanta, thoughts turn to summer and mouth-watering memories of dining on sweet sliced watermelon, biting into a peach so juicy it drips down the arm and corn so crisp it makes for a somewhat boisterous banquet. It won’t be long before produce stands and farmers’ markets begin appearing on heavily shaded street corners and in quaint small town squares all over Georgia. To help prospective produce procurers navigate the upcoming season, local farmer Cyndi Ball of Lazy B Farm weighs in with five terrific tips in this Atlanta summer produce guide.
Lazy B Farm
1938 Parker Drive
Statham, GA 30666
Married 27 years and mother to six children – all homeschooled – it’s hard to believe that local farmer, certified beekeeper and owner of the Lazy B Farm in north Georgia has time for much else. Somehow, since her farm’s inception 10 years ago, Cyndi Ball has found the time to establish Lazy B as an educational homestead, launch “Cows in the Cafeteria” (a special farm-to-school program), become the founder of the Ladies’ Homestead Gathering, coordinate the Statham Farmers Market each year and collaborate with the dedicated team at Camp Twin Lakes. In the time in between, she manages a fully functioning farm and hands-on classroom that includes an orchard, vegetable garden, numerous outbuildings for animals, beehives and more. If anyone in Atlanta knows a thing or two about how to find (and grow) great produce, it’s Lazy B’s Cyndi Ball.
Tip 1: Try Something New (or Something Old)
Ball is a big believer in venturing outside of one’s own comfort zone from time to time to try something new. She suggests that each time shoppers visit a farmers’ market or produce stand, they should seek out produce they’ve never tasted before so they can broaden their palate. “A lot of farmers are growing niche or ‘boutique’ produce that includes hybrid fruits and vegetables for something entirely original or heirloom fruits and vegetables that they’re trying to bring back around,” explains Ball. To learn more about history and importance of heirloom produce, she recommends the book “The Seed Underground” by author, speaker and seed saver Janisse Ray.
Tip 2: Know Your Food, Know Your Farmer
Why wait until the farmers’ market rolls into town? Ball suggests getting to know the farmers in one’s local area and requesting to pay a visit to their farm. It’s a terrific way to discover what goes into growing, harvesting and getting produce to market. Many local farmers don’t often have the time to advertise themselves and would gladly welcome interested neighbors to their farm. In the event that there isn’t a farm close by, Ball recommends taking a nice road trip to find one.
Tip 3: Eat in Season
While items like horseradish, leeks, radishes and turnips are in season year-round, a wide variety of fruits and vegetables are in season at different times of the year in various parts of the country. While one may be able to find watermelon in the dead of winter at their local grocery store, to enjoy truly fresh, locally sourced watermelon, one should become a student of the seasons. Fortunately, that is particularly easy to do in this technologically advanced day and age. Locavore is a terrific and free app available to iPhone and Android users that can pinpoint the user’s location and tell them what is in season in their area. It can also pinpoint local sellers – which makes it much easier to follow Ball’s advice in Tip 2 above, as well as suggest terrific recipes for them to make with their fresh produce.
Tip 4: Not All Farms and Farmers’ Markets are About Produce
Some shoppers may be surprised to learn that there’s more to their farmers’ market than just fruits and vegetables. They may visit a local farm or see a booth set up at their farmers’ market where they will find grass-fed beef and pork, fresh chicken and eggs and/or fresh dairy. This is another terrific time to try something new. Ball suggests ordering a cut of meat that one has never tried before and taste the difference between grass-fed beef or pork and what they might find at their local grocery store.
Tip 5: Buy Local Honey
When one heads out to their local farmers’ market or produce stand, they may not think to be on the lookout for local honey. Ball suggests that shoppers should be sure to add this very important item to their list this spring and summer. Honey is not only a great natural sweetener for tea, coffee, oatmeal and more, it’s also known to have beneficial medicinal properties. Not to mention, buying local honey is a wonderful way to support one’s local beekeeper.
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Kasie Bolling is a freelance writer covering all things Atlanta. Her work can be found on Examiner.com.