Opinion Latest

Local food is the best choice

Local food is the best choice

If you need a reminder of the sweet soul of humanity, visit your local farmers market on a Saturday morning.

Since my early 20s when I stumbled upon a farmers market in North Asheville, I’ve been hooked. Where else can you purchase fresh flowers, local produce, eggs from happy hens, raw honey and pottery while at the same time listening to live music and munching on a fresh-baked pastry while carrying your mug of coffee and smiling at each passerby? Never do I leave a farmers market without feeling content and more hopeful about life. 

This past weekend we frolicked around the Haywood’s Historic Farmers Market then stopped by Christopher Farms Produce Market. When we got home we unloaded our bounty of local strawberries, kale, spinach, ramps and purple sweet potatoes. I popped a raw piece of spinach into my mouth, then did the same with the kale and marveled at the explosion of flavor. It’s no wonder a salad made with local greens only requires a little salt, pepper and lemon juice as opposed to the dousing of dressing needed for mass-produced greens.

When we walked by the ramp stand, I couldn’t help but smile. For me, ramps are a happy memory from the pandemic. Prior to the pandemic, I was not a big ramp eater. I grew up with the misconception that consuming ramps would make me sweat an onion-smelling odor for multiple days. Who knows where this belief came from? I was a child of the 80s and one off-handed or sarcastic comment about ramps must’ve really stuck in my brain.

Fast forward to the pandemic when my dad would bring over a slew of fresh produce on a weekly basis. With everything shut down, we got into the habit of cooking elaborate meals at home then sitting outside for the rest of the evening to enjoy a campfire. My dad brought the goods and I did the cooking. The pandemic went into full swing in March right when ramps started popping up on forest floors, so they were a bountiful addition to our pandemic menu. My dad befriended the folks at the Owl Produce Market in Canton, which apparently always had plenty of ramps so whatever plethora of goods he brought always included these unique onions.

I learned how to wash, chop and utilize ramps in just about every dish I could think of because honestly, if you’ve eaten them, you know how delicious they are and how much pizzazz they add to foods like potatoes, eggs, vegetables, stews, soups and salads. So, the other day at the farmers market when I caught a glimpse of those delicious green, pink and white onions with rooty tips covered in dirt, I couldn’t help but feel some nostalgia and buy a couple bunches.

Related Items

Throughout the week we’ve been purchasing strawberries from the Darnell Farms crew who set up each day in the parking lot of Papas and Beer in Hazelwood, outside of Waynesville. They sell gallon buckets and with a lot of fruit-eating people in our family, that doesn’t last very long. If we do have lingering berries, I chop and freeze them for later use in baked goods or smoothies. 

Each year when farmers markets open, I’m acutely reminded of the importance of local farming and agriculture, not only for our community’s economy but also for our health. One of the primary reasons local produce is more flavorful and nutritious is because the amount of time it takes for the food to get from farm to pantry is greatly reduced. Think about it. When we buy produce from another country or even the other side of the United States, the days and weeks it takes to travel increases the likelihood the food possesses additives and pesticides and decreases its flavor and nutritional value. 

Local and organic is always the best way to go, but even local farmers sometimes use pesticides. Plus, organic can be very pricey. If you can’t always afford organic produce, at least take the time to rinse off the pesticides. I recently learned of a way to rid fresh produce of most pesticides before you consume them. Simply place the produce in a bowl with cold filtered water, add a quarter cup baking soda and a quarter cup white vinegar and massage the fruits or vegetables then let sit for one minute only (any longer than this may result in a vinegar taste in the produce). Rinse with cold water and enjoy. This process really does not take very long and then you can feel confident that you and your family are eating healthier, cleaner food. It’s also a good idea to use this same method with organic produce to  make sure you clean it of bugs, dirt and debris. 

Our older family members and those who came before them already had everything figured out. They ate food from their own gardens or from farmers in their community. When they had an abundance of vegetables or fruit, they canned them and stored them for use in colder months when fresh produce was hard to come by. They even pickled fruits and vegetables which now is touted all throughout the wellness world as a great way to nurture our gut’s microbiome. 

Even though the conveniences of our modern world make things easier and perhaps more efficient, sometimes it’s helpful to embrace the ways of simpler times. When it comes to the foods we put in our bodies, we have no idea where it’s been or what it’s been through before it reaches our kitchen. With local and regional farms and growers, however, we can at least be confident the food is better taken care of and travels less distance to reach our grocery bags. As we fully step into the spring and summer seasons, consider shopping locally for as much of your food as possible. Your fellow community members and your body will be so grateful you did. 

(Susanna Shetley is a writer, editor and digital media specialist. This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..)

Smokey Mountain News Logo
Go to top
Payment Information


At our inception 20 years ago, we chose to be different. Unlike other news organizations, we made the decision to provide in-depth, regional reporting free to anyone who wanted access to it. We don’t plan to change that model. Support from our readers will help us maintain and strengthen the editorial independence that is crucial to our mission to help make Western North Carolina a better place to call home. If you are able, please support The Smoky Mountain News.

The Smoky Mountain News is a wholly private corporation. Reader contributions support the journalistic mission of SMN to remain independent. Your support of SMN does not constitute a charitable donation. If you have a question about contributing to SMN, please contact us.