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HAHRC BEATS:Enjoying the bounty from local farmers markets

Your local farmers market is the best place to source all of the bounty grown, raised and produced here in the Gorge. Of course you can find fresh peaches, berries, carrots and tomatoes, but the harvests from the Gorge region also include fresh salmon fillets, lamb, freshly baked breads, artisan cheeses, steaks and much more!

We are fortunate to live in a community served by several markets that funnel the harvests from the farm to our plates. You can meet the wonderfully talented and dedicated producers that grow, raise and prepare the freshest foods of the Gorge every week at the Gorge Grown Farmers Market on Thursdays at the Hood River Middle School and at the Hood River Saturday Market downtown.

Farmers markets grow in popularity each year and are an important force in rebuilding our local economy.

In 2012 over $400,000 was spent at Gorge markets and for 2013, market managers have set a goal of over $1 million in total sales. Farmers markets grow when you buy your groceries there week after week. Loyal customers build enticing demand that allows farmers to make a living doing what they do best — feeding nutritious food to local families. Every dollar you spend on local food is a vote for a vibrant regional food system because the money you spend on local food stays in the local economy, and directly supports the farmers.

It is important that our markets go the extra mile to make sure farmers markets are accessible to everyone in the community. Many vendors accept WIC vouchers and at the Gorge Grown Farmers Market, there is a “SNAP incentive” program.

Thanks to business sponsorships, every shopper using a food stamp card is given extra money in tokens (up to $5 each week) to help them enjoy the finest and freshest foods found in the Gorge.

Finally, food donations collected to support FISH Food bank complete the circle to be sure we are all able to eat nutritious and locally sourced meals. We can all benefit from the high nutritional values of the incredible bounty from our local farms!

Exciting ideas are brewing for ways to expand the market offerings in Hood River County for 2014. Gorge Grown is working with the Port to build a market structure down in the Port to allow year-round operations and a new market with a Hispanic focus is being planned for Odell.

Every time you buy local, you ensure that our diverse population of food producers will thrive and grow and these new market developments will succeed. If we focus on “Local Food First” we can all enjoy delicious foods all year long.

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Healthy Active Hood River County (HAHRC) is our community healthy living coalition. We promote wellness through increased physical activity, healthy eating, tobacco use prevention and policy and environmental change. Join us at our next meeting Sept. 10, 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m., at Hood River Aquatic Center meeting room.

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Todd Dierker is co-director of the Gorge Grown Food Network.

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