Eating local for Labor Day

By Grant McCarty
Local Foods and Small Farms Educator,
University of Illinois Extension

As summer reaches a close this Labor Day, it is a time of evaluating what worked well in the garden. You are probably still growing some warm season crops that are holding on to these warm temperatures. You may have started cool season crops as well.

While ending your garden season, it is a good time to think about what worked well, what didn’t work well, what would you do different next year, and what you would do the same. It is hard to look back at this season next spring when the crops are no longer growing.

At the same time, there is still great local food currently at the farmers markets in the area. This week at the farmers market, you will find mostly the warm season crops. These crops include tomatoes, peppers, watermelon, eggplant, cantaloupe, winter squash, spaghetti squash and other vegetables.

Eggs and meats can also be found. One trend I sometimes see with vendors is canning specials. A vendor may be selling a large box of produce at a discounted rate for you to can and preserve with.

Labor Day is a good time to start thinking about what crops you want to store back for winter. Winter squash, pumpkins, potatoes and other vegetables can be stored for use this fall and winter.

In the past weeks, Rockford orchards have opened. Not all apple varieties are available as each week new ones reach maturity. If you are looking for a particular apple variety, you may want to check with the orchard to see if it is available. Many orchards have websites and facebook pages that are regularly updated to share information about varieties.

While selecting produce at the farmers markets for your Labor Day meals, be sure to pick up other local ingredients. Meats, cheeses, eggs, grains, breads and other local foods will enhance the festivities that you are planning. You’ll be able to share with your guests where each of the ingredients came from and let them see that eating local is doable.

Enjoy your Labor Day weekend with the local foods of the Rockford region.

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