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real fresh vs fake fresh

Real fresh vs fake fresh

3 things that make local food truly fresh + more nutritious, flavorful

By the Veggie Fairy Team:

The external appearance of modern produce tells you very little about what’s inside.

Big Corporate Agriculture grows its produce all over the world, usually wherever they can get the job done the cheapest. That means the produce has to be able to survive at least a week, and sometimes months, of travel and storage before it gets to a grocery store.

The result: Big Ag has focused on developing varieties of produce that have a long shelf life and are tough enough to withstand the rough handling that’s part of industrial agriculture. Nutrition and flavor are not Big Ag’s priority, even when the label says organic.

If there isn’t much in the way of nutrients and flavor on the inside, all you’ve got left is the outside. So fragile fruits like berries get sprayed with preservatives and veggies get waxed. Anything that looks less than perfect gets tossed. It’s all about appearances. Sure, that grocery store produce looks fresh. But it’s fake fresh.

So here’s what our local farmers do to provide you with truly fresh food:

1. Make flavor a priority

Our local farmers choose to grow produce varieties that are known for their flavor, not their shelf life. If it happens to look pretty too, that’s just icing on the cake. But since they don’t rely on pesticides, sometimes there are signs that a bug has sampled it first.

2. Pick at the peak of ripeness

Our farmers let their produce grow until the day it reaches its ripe, nutritional peak. They don’t pick it early in preparation for a long trip (which cuts short its nutrients and flavor, even though it may have technically “ripened” by the time it reaches its destination.)

3. No tricks or preservatives

IN SPRINGTIME, WHEN TEMPS CAN SUDDENLY SWING BETWEEN HOT AND COLD, GREENS MAY WILT WORE QUICKLY AFTER THEY’RE HARVESTED. But we don’t douse anything in preservatives or wax to make it look like something it’s not. We simply chill it and deliver it to you quickly, while it’s still really and truly fresh – which we can do because we’re local. If it wilts, you can easily and naturally perk it back up by putting it in water for 20-25 minutes to rehydrate it. The photo with this post comes from Seasonal Roots member Michelle M, who perked up her chives by popping them into a vase full of water, and then told us she noticed an added benefit: “They look beautiful waiting to be used!”

Fresh = perishable . . . and if it perishes, we want to know!

The fact is, real fresh food is very perishable. That’s why we check and double check each item before it reaches you. If something falls through the cracks we want to know! Report it the next time you order.

Here’s how:

  • After you make your choices and click “Save And Review My Order”, scroll to the bottom of the page. Click on “Report Issue With Last Order” then follow the directions. Be sure to click on the green “Submit Issue” button when you’re done!
  • Or sign in anytime and hover over the purple gear icon in the upper right corner. From the drop down menu, select “Report An Issue”, then follow those directions.
  • If the item came in your basket, we’ll replace it. If it was an Extra, we’ll issue a credit. We always stand behind the quality of our fresh, local food!

    How do you keep fresh food fresh?

    The best way to get the full benefit of all the nutrients and flavor in fresh food is to eat it right away. Of course, that’s not always possible, so check out our series on how to make your fresh food last longer.

    ABOUT SEASONAL ROOTS

    Since 2011, Seasonal Roots’ online farmers market has connected Virginia families with local family farmers who use sustainable, humane practices. Our veggie fairies – mostly moms who believe in living better through scrumptious, healthy eating, being kind to animals, protecting the environment, and spreading joy – home-deliver freshly harvested produce, eggs, grass-fed dairy and meat, plus artisan fare. We empower our members to eat better and live better with more nutritious, flavorful food that’s good for us and good for the planet. More info at seasonalroots.com.

    organic vs sustainable humane

    Which one is organic?

    Here’s an easy way to find out if your food is good for you and the planet

    By the Veggie Fairy Team:

    Which image do you think shows an organic egg-producing farm approved by the USDA?

    The top image is from a multi-generational family farmstead in the rolling hills outside Richmond, Va. Their hens spend their days in open pastures, foraging and engaging in natural behaviors like dust baths and flying short distances.

    The bottom image is from a complex of 9 big barns crowded with 1.6 million hens up in Michigan. The closest those hens come to being outside is in a “porch” attached to their barn that’s screened on one side.

    So which operation has been certified organic by the USDA? If you guessed the top one, you’d be wrong.

    Most of us would assume that a label that says “organic” would be the easiest way to make sure you’re getting the best food for your money. Completely understandable! But that’s just not the case.

    Herbruck Poultry Ranch in Saranac, Michigan, (the bottom image), is USDA organic and was featured recently in The Washington Post. The article explains how big, industrial farming operations like Herbruck are using the government’s official organic certification process to their advantage.

    At Avery’s Branch Farms in the rolling hills of Amelia Court House, Va., (the top image), the Alexander family live and work there alongside their chickens, turkeys, ducks, pigs, and cows, using sustainable, pasture-based farming methods to produce nutritious, delicious food.

    Pasture-based: The real gold standard

    The Alexanders and their animals live close to the land. In the woodlands, the pigs root around for acorns and other piggy goodies the way they were meant to. Out in the pastures, the cows graze on a diverse mixture of grasses, their natural diet. During daylight hours, the flocks forage in the pastures, too, under the watchful eyes of the family’s Great Pyrenees guard dogs, who protect them from predators. At night, the birds nest safely inside their hen houses.

    By the way, those hen houses are on wheels so they can be moved from pasture to pasture, following behind the cows. The hens’ low-stress, healthy, natural lifestyle is great for the girls… and their eggs, which are much more nutritious and flavorful than commercial factory-farmed eggs.

    For example, their pastured eggs are up to twice as rich in vitamin E, and two to six times richer in beta-carotene! You can see it for yourself in the egg yolks. Crack an egg from a pasture-raised hen into a pan and then next to it crack an egg from any other kind of hen — conventional or so-called free-range or cage-free, organic or not. The pastured egg will be a deeper, brighter yellow. The others? Much paler.

    (Discover the difference between pastured eggs vs cage-free, free-range and organic eggs — there’s no contest!!!)

    The Alexanders’ animals are raised from start to finish on lush pasture. They’re fed no hormones, antibiotics, or synthetic chemicals. This is the old school definition of organic, before Big Industrial Agriculture got hold of it. Not only does the old-fashioned way produce more nutritious food, it’s also much more humane for the animals and better for the environment — the farmer is working with nature instead of against it.

    “It’s our goal to provide the community with the most nourishing products possible, while also protecting the land,” the Alexanders explain. “We have never used any chemical fertilizers, pesticides, or herbicides on our farm.”

    So how can you know if your food is genuinely good for you and the planet?

    Okay, so the organic label is no guarantee. Cracking open eggs and comparing them is eye-opening, but you waste a lot of eggs that way.

    The best way to find out if your food is any good is to get to know each farmer and food artisan who produces the things you eat. That sounds hard and time-consuming, and it is if you do it yourself. But it’s easy if you have someone you can trust to do it for you.

    At Seasonal Roots, that someone is Sam, our Farmer Connector, backed up by Duane, our founder and Head Veggie Fairy. Sam researches and gets to know everyone who makes the food we home-deliver to our members, including the Alexanders. You can get to know them, too. Next to every item on our menu is a small image of the farmer or food artisan who provided it. Click on that image, and you can read their story and find out what you need to know.

    Eating fresh local food from people you know and trust is the easiest way to live your values — whether that’s a healthy diet, a low carbon footprint, supporting local farmers and your local community, protecting the local environment… or all of the above. As a Seasonal Roots member, you’re supporting sustainable local agriculture and making a difference for yourself, our community, and the planet!

    ABOUT SEASONAL ROOTS

    Since 2011, Seasonal Roots’ online farmers market has connected Virginia families with local family farmers who use sustainable, humane practices. Our veggie fairies – mostly moms who believe in living better through scrumptious, healthy eating, being kind to animals, protecting the environment, and spreading joy – home-deliver freshly harvested produce, pastured eggs, grassfed dairy and meat, plus artisan fare. We empower our members to eat better and live better with more nutritious, flavorful food that’s good for us and good for the planet. More info at seasonalroots.com.

    ugly food fresh local sustainable

    We love ugly food!

    What does truly fresh produce look like?

    By the Veggie Fairy Team:

    The external appearance of modern produce tells you very little about what’s inside.

    Big Corporate Agriculture grows its produce all over the world, usually wherever they can get the job done the cheapest. That means the produce has to be able to survive at least a week, and sometimes months, of travel and storage before it gets to a grocery store.

    So Big Ag has focused on developing varieties of produce that have a long shelf life and are tough enough to withstand the rough handling that’s part of industrial agriculture. Nutrition and flavor are not Big Ag’s priority, even when the label says organic.

    If there isn’t much in the way of nutrients and flavor on the inside, all you’ve got left is the outside. So fragile fruits like berries get sprayed with perservatives and veggies get waxed. Anything that looks less than perfect gets tossed. It’s all about appearances. Sure, that grocery store produce looks fresh. But it’s fake fresh.

    Our local farmers choose to grow produce varieties that are known for their flavor, not their shelf life. If it happens to look pretty too, that’s just icing on the cake. But since they don’t rely on pesticides, sometimes there are signs that a bug has sampled it first.

    Plus, our farmers let their produce grow until the day it reaches its ripe, nutritional peak. They don’t pick it early in preparation for a long trip (which cuts short its nutrients and flavor, even though it may have technically “ripened” by the time it reaches its destination.)

    After our farmers harvest it, we don’t douse it in preservatives or wax. We simply chill it and deliver it to you quickly, while it’s still really and truly fresh – which we can do because we’re local.

    So that’s why we love ugly food. If it’s ugly, nibbled, or oddly shaped, that’s just proof that it’s good for the planet and good for us!

    Fresh = perishable . . . and if it perishes, we want to know!

    The fact is, real fresh food is very perishable. That’s why we check and double check each item before it reaches you. If something falls through the cracks we want to know! Report it the next time you order.

    Here’s how:

  • After you make your choices and click “Save And Review My Order”, scroll to the bottom of the page. Click on “Report Issue With Last Order” then follow the directions. Be sure to click on the green “Submit Issue” button when you’re done!
  • Or sign in anytime and hover over the purple gear icon in the upper right corner. From the drop down menu, select “Report An Issue”, then follow those directions.
  • If the item came in your basket, we’ll replace it. If it was an Extra, we’ll issue a credit. We always stand behind the quality of our fresh, local food!

    How do you keep fresh food fresh?

    Pretty or ugly, the best way to get the full benefit of all the nutrients and flavor in fresh food is to eat it right away. Of course, that’s not always possible, so check out our series on how to make your fresh food last longer.

    ABOUT SEASONAL ROOTS

    Since 2011, Seasonal Roots’ online farmers market has connected Virginia families with local family farmers who use sustainable, humane practices. Our veggie fairies – mostly moms who believe in living better through scrumptious, healthy eating, being kind to animals, protecting the environment, and spreading joy – home-deliver freshly harvested produce, pastured eggs, grassfed dairy and meat, plus artisan fare. We empower our members to eat better and live better with more nutritious, flavorful food that’s good for us and good for the planet. More info at seasonalroots.com.

    Richmond farmers markets customer service

    Richmond farmers markets

    The truth about farmers markets customer service — plus recipes!

    Last in a 4-part series on Virginia farmers markets
    By Kristin Henderson, chief veggie conversationalist:

    (Part 1: Virginia Beach farmers markets)
    (Part 2: Northern Virginia farmers markets)
    (Part 3: Fredericksburg farmers markets)

    As I was researching this series, I came across this from a shopper at a farmers market: “Enjoyed seeing the variety of pickles and beef truck. The soap vendor spent her time at the pickle vendor’s tent telling us what she thought we should purchase from him….not good. Would have enjoyed spending time ourselves talking with the pickle vendor.”

    Yikes. Because there are so many different vendors at a farmers market, the customer service naturally varies from vendor to vendor, and sometimes it’s real hit or miss — like the poor pickle vendor, caught in a pickle that wasn’t even of his own making. (Sorry, I couldn’t resisit.)

    How do you measure customer service at a farmers market? For me, it’s a combination of things: Friendliness, respect, knowledgeability, and responsiveness. I don’t want to be ignored, but I don’t want them to bug me, either. And what do you do if you get home and discover there’s a problem with something you bought? How do you get help after the sale?

    Richmond farmers markets

    The Richmond area is jam-packed with farmers markets. Here are some insights into the customer services on offer at a diverse selection from around the city, from big well-known markets to smaller neighborhood ones.

    One thing these markets have in common is they’re all friendly (what farmers market isn’t?!), most are dog-friendly, too, and they’re all open at least one day a week this time of year. A few are open year-round.

    South of the James Farmers Market is the big kahuna among Richmond farmers markets, with about 100 vendors in the summers. Folks who shop here say it’s exciting and entertaining. In between its Saturday market days you can reach the market managers by email and USPS snail mail.

    Farmers Market @ St Stephen’s is small and stress-free with easy parking. They’re open on Saturdays. In between market days they offer an email contact on their website.

    Birdhouse Farmers Market, formerly known as the Byrd House Market, is tucked away off the beaten path. It’s open on Tuesdays and considered a real find by loyal shoppers in its neighborhood. One unique customer service that they offer is a pop-up library. On their website they also offer a phone number! Another unique service. So you can reach the market managers by phone or email when the market’s not open.

    Carytown Farmers Market is also a little neighborhood market. Customers like that it’s open on Sundays and surrounded by fun Carytown shopping. To get in touch with the market reps when the market’s closed, there’s an email address, a mailing address, and a contact form on the website.

    Lakeside Farmers Market, open on Saturdays and Wednesdays, is praised for its wide food selection by the folks who shop there — which is at least partly a result of the market not requiring its vendors to stick to local food only. On its website, the market is open about the fact that they’re not producer-only, meaning that some of their vendors sell things they haven’t grown or made themselves, including foods grown way outside our region. Also of note: Of all the Richmond markets listed here, this one is the only one that prominently offers a one-week satisfaction guarantee — anything you’re not happy with you can return to the vendor who sold it to you the following week for a replacement, refund, or credit. There’s also an email address and online contact form to get in touch with the market managers between market days.

    West End Farmers Market is open Saturdays and its managers can be reached by email when it’s not open. Shoppers who live in the West End love that this market is so conveniently close to home.

    What happens to customer service when the market’s not open?

    Most markets are super helpful and friendly during the few hours they’re open for business. But what happens if you get home, unload your bags of booty, and discover there’s a problem? Who do you contact?

    That’s totally up to the market and the individual vendor. All the Richmond farmers markets listed here offer at least an email option for getting in touch with the managers. Many vendors make their contact info available, too, at their booths and online. But assuming they’re willing to give you a replacement or refund, you still have to go to considerable effort. To return anything, you have to return to the market along with the item you want to take back. If you don’t have the time or transportation to get back before their deadline, whatever that may be, you’re out of luck.

    This is where an online farmers market like Seasonal Roots has an advantage. While Seasonal Roots is modeled on the farmers markets we love, the lack of customer service between market days was one thing we decided not to copy.

    To start with, our farmers market online shopping is open all weekend, from 2:00 Friday afternoon till 11:59pm Sunday. So the available “open” hours when you can get your local food shopping fix are a lot more convenient.

    We also provide farmers market home delivery at no extra cost. So you don’t have to go anywhere and that saves you time. Plus everything we deliver is guaranteed. If there’s ever an issue with anything, we’ll give you a replacement or refund, no problem.

    To report an issue, we built in an easy way to do it on our website. (Near the end of this article is a description of how to report an issue.) It takes about a minute. After that, if a replacement’s in order, we’ll home deliver it to you along with your next order. If a credit is due, we’ll issue it pronto. Easy peasy. You never have to track down individual vendors or mess with trying to get in touch with market managers who often have other day jobs.

    For any other questions or concerns, you can contact our dedicated support team of veggie fairies by email or phone (757-351-4565).

    And one more thing… recipes!

    Of course, most of the stuff you bring home from a farmers market or receive at your doorstep from Seasonal Roots is totally fine and ready to eat — and the sooner you eat it, the better. Fresh local produce is loaded with more nutrients and flavor than grocery store produce because it’s just days from the field, whereas grocery store produce is at least a week old, often older. The longer it sits, the more nutrients and flavor it loses. So it’s best to get busy eating!

    To make it easy for you to do that, we include several recipes with every delivery and post them on Pinterest, too. We think that’s just good customer service. Check it out!

    In the end, any Virginia farmers market that features local food is good for local farmers and food artisans. That’s our bottom line goal here at Seasonal Roots. As long as family farmers can make a living, we’ll all continue to have access to delicious, nutritious local food that’s good for us and good for the planet. So when you have the time, go spend a few hours at your local farmers market. For your day-to-day local food needs, there’s Seasonal Roots.

    Either way, in-person or online, we’ll see you at the farmer’s market!

     

    ABOUT SEASONAL ROOTS

    Since 2011, Seasonal Roots’ online farmers market has connected Virginia families with local family farmers who use sustainable, humane practices. Our veggie fairies – mostly moms who believe in living better through scrumptious, healthy eating, being kind to animals, protecting the environment, and spreading joy – home-deliver freshly harvested produce, pastured eggs, grassfed dairy and meat, plus artisan fare. We empower our members to eat better and live better with more nutritious, flavorful food that’s good for us and good for the planet. More info at seasonalroots.com.