Keeping Your Produce Local and In Season
by Katie Rogers


Have you been basking in the Santa Barbara spring-time warmth, hoping you’ll soak up vital nutrients and the sun will infuse your skin with vibrant color? Somewhere nearby, a strawberry has been too. Spring has sprung and so have the copious amounts of fruits and vegetables that thrive in this season’s temperate weather. There are tons of benefits for eating in-season local produce, and they are conferred upon not just you, your health, and your wallet, but also your community and your environment. Here you’ll find an explanation of the benefits, a quick and easy cut-out guide to carry in your wallet so you always know what’s in season, and a handy list of farmers markets in Santa Barbara, every day of the week. So go for it! Implement these small changes that make a huge difference.

Align Yourself with Nature. Upon visiting your local supermarket, you would assume all fruits and vegetables grow all year round. To give you an intuitive sense of what will be in season throughout the year, Barbara Kingsolver, author of the book “Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life,” describes the actual produce cycle like this: in the cool early spring, small leaves appear (spinach, kale, lettuce) and then bigger leaves (cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower). As summer begins, flower buds appear, followed by small green fruits (snow peas, cucumbers, green beans). Midsummer sees fruits grow larger, riper, and more colorful (beefsteak tomatoes, eggplants, yellow and red peppers). Fall brings shorter days and plants mature into hard-shelled fruits with developed seeds inside (cantaloupes, watermelons, pumpkins), and as winter approaches, the root crops flourish (beets, sweet potatoes, turnips). Do you ever feel like you eat the same foods all the time? Eating in season produce means you’ll have the opportunity to eat new foods as the seasons change. Variety is the spice of life!

Get More Nutrients. If you’re eating out of season, you’re eating foods that have been shipped from somewhere far enough away to be enjoying an entirely different season. As the produce makes its journey to your local supermarket, it’s losing valuable nutrients along the way. According to Donna Gates, author of “The Body Ecology Diet,” foods that have to be brought to you across long distances are picked while still immature to ensure that they don’t spoil. Besides lacking in taste and aroma, this prematurely picked produce suffers from vitamin degradation and nutrient loss.

Support the Local Economy. When you buy local, your dollar goes straight to the farmer, ensuring that family farms in your community will continue to thrive and that healthy, flavorful, plentiful food will be available for future generations. In addition, the money spent on local produce is recycled into the school system and local businesses. Once you’ve shopped your heart out at the farmers market, you’ll need some ideas to prepare the produce. Check out Janet Fletcher’s “Fresh from the Farmers’ Market: Year-Round Recipes for the Pick of the Crop,” which will guide you in the selection and storage of farmers market produce and provide a wealth of recipes for every season.

Save the Environment. According to, most fruits and vegetables at your local supermarket travel between 1500 and 2500 miles before they get to you. Shipping fruits and vegetables has serious consequences for our earth, including increased greenhouse emissions, atmosphere pollution, and depletion of energy resources. Trucks that are transporting fruits and vegetables across the U.S. can produce up to 3100 pounds of CO2. Foods found at the farmers market are also less likely to be victims of pesticides and other farming practices that endanger the earth’s health and biodiversity. Small local farms rotate their crops frequently which Rachel Leslie, a certified holistic health counselor, says replenishes the soil with nutrients, aiding in the health of the soil and therefore contributing to a sustainable environment.