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RISMEDIA, May 15, 2010—(MCT)—Nothing beats the taste of a tomato right off the vine or a ripe peach just picked from the tree. Fresh-from-the-farm fruits and vegetables always taste better and it’s been proven that they’re usually better for you. Produce that is transported long distances is often-times picked just before it’s ripe to maximize shelf life. This means the produce hasn’t reached its full maturity or its full nutritional value. Eating locally grown produce is not only more tasty and nutritious, it will also help you lower your eco-footprint by reducing the pollution created by the miles traveled to bring the produce from the farm to your table.

Of course, locally grown produce includes the vegetables you grow in your own garden. If you’d love to have a garden but don’t have the space or ample sunshine, seek out a community garden. There, you rent a small plot of land and tend to your own garden. Irrigation is often included in a community garden or at least they provide access to a water hose. You’ll also get to meet other green thumbs that share your interest. Check with your local Cooperative Extension office for a list of available community gardens near you.

If you don’t have the time or enthusiasm to tend a garden, you can by-pass the work and visit a farmers market. Many farmers markets offer only locally grown produce and you can often meet the farmer that grew it. Farmers markets are also a good source for organic produce that’s been grown using little or no chemical fertilizer or pesticides. Remember to take along a basket or reusable shopping bag so you can avoid taking home a bunch of plastic bags.

CSA or Community Supported Agriculture is another option that is gaining in popularity. CSAs deliver locally grown produce right to your doorstep or arrange central locations for pick-up. You pay a local farm at the beginning of the season and they provide just picked produce on a regular schedule throughout the growing season, usually once a week or every other week.

Buying locally grown produce helps support your local economy and it’s a great-tasting way to Do Your Part.

Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.