The Ottumwa Courier

Ottumwa

July 9, 2014

Fresh food improves community

OTTUMWA — Every summer across the Midwest, food stands pop up on gravel roads, and farmers markets are filled with a variety of home-grown products.

Finding a fresh selection of healthy greens and juicy fruits isn't as hard as you might think. According to Ottumwa's Environmental Specialist Bob Coffman, "fresh, uncut, whole produce is exempt from being required to have temporary food license." This means that if families who grow have a surplus of crops, they are able to sell them out of a food stand.

"I like the very freshest of the produce," said shopper Tammy Bienusa at the farmers market behind Market on Main. "I think it is more of a personal touch here. You have your favorite vendors year after year here that come."

Shoppers aren't the only ones who appreciate a friendly face in retail. Helen Campbell, who runs a stand full of vegetables with her husband Ron, explained that she enjoyed the pleasant atmosphere and getting to meet all the different shoppers.

The prices run low at this farmers market, you can purchase fresh-picked zucchini for only 75 cents and freshly grown, never bagged lettuce for only a dollar.

According to economists, money spent locally circulates through the community up to five times, which means that buying from local food stands and farmers markets contributes to the growth of a community by enhancing revenue.

According to the United States Department of Agriculture Economic Research Service, farmers and ranchers only receive 16 cents of every dollar spent on food in a supermarket. The other 84 cents is given to off-farm costs such as marketing, processing, wholesaling, distribution and retailing. When purchased locally, the statistic is turned around, and farmers get anywhere between 80 and 90 percent of revenue.

Not only do farmers markets encourage local economic development in the area, they also provide fresh foods. When you pick up a piece of produce at the supermarket, it has typically traveled two weeks and 1,500 miles. Vendors at the Ottumwa Farmers Market are local growers who wish to sell healthy products to the community.

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