The emerging warmer weather and the opening of farm stands and farmers markets is a sign of hope for me during this COVID-19 pandemic. With so many uncertainties this year, I am looking forward to the relatively predictable rhythm of the market season — spring asparagus, summer berries, late summer tomatoes and pumpkins in the fall.
I invite you to journey with me by following the Market Fresh Finds each Friday through October. The Washington State University Extension Master Food Preservers will be sharing their practical wisdom on how to select, store, prepare and serve locally grown, seasonal fruits and vegetables. Each week a recipe from Chef Scotty will be featured as well as simple, yet tasteful, serving suggestions for the highlighted fruit or vegetable.
Another bright spot for me this year is the launch of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, Market Match program at about 100 participating farmers markets across Washington. As the number of people depending on SNAP benefits to feed their families continues to grow, SNAP Market Match can help stretch limited food budgets and boost purchasing power.
Locally, shoppers who use SNAP at the Vancouver, Camas and Salmon Creek farmers markets can get an additional “match” of $10 or more to buy more fresh fruits, vegetables, mushrooms and plant starts. This puts more fresh food on the tables of families who need it most and money in the pockets of regional farmers. It also brings much needed financial support to the markets themselves during these difficult times.
Farmers markets across the state are opening while implementing social distancing standards to maintain a safe and healthy environment for shoppers, vendors, and market staff. In the past many of us considered the farmers markets as being more than food outlets. They have been destinations for us to gather with friends and family, enjoy music and entertainment and generally feel connected to community. This year will be very different as we are being asked to treat shopping at the markets as an essential activity instead of a social one.
As shoppers, we can all help shoulder the burden to increase the possibility that the markets will be there for us as destinations when social distancing measures are lifted. Check the farmers markets’ websites for the most current COVID-19 prevention measures.
Although only one person per household should visit the market, the experience can still be social. Explore the online produce list with members of your household and create a plan for how you will use the bounty in the upcoming week. Or create a sense of excitement and anticipation by ordering online and doing an in-person or virtual reveal or unboxing. Plan a virtual cook-along with family or friends using items from the market. Be inventive, be creative and consider the words of the author Margaret Drabble “when nothing is sure, everything is possible.”
Zena Edwards is the food safety and nutrition faculty for WSU Extension in Clark and Cowlitz Counties. For additional recipes, food preservation and food safety information visit http://ext100.wsu.edu/clark/?p=1134. Have questions? Call MFP Helpline: 564-397-5366, or follow the Facebook Page “Canning and Preserving-WSU Clark County Extension” at www.facebook.com/WSUClarkCo.MFP