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Tips on Getting the Most From Your Local Farmers Market

As summer rolls in, it brings the opening of thousands of farmers markets around the country, where consumers eagerly seek fresh, locally grown produce.

But to get the most out of the experience, shoppers need to dig a little deeper to find out what goes into growing their fruits and vegetables. Asking the farmers the following questions will help you choose the freshest, most nutritious fruits and vegetables available:

1. Did you grow this? The best thing about a farmers market is getting fresh-picked, locally grown produce. And nobody can tell you more about how the produce was grown than the farmers themselves. Make sure the farmers actually grew the produce versus buying it from a wholesaler to resell to you.

2. When was it picked? Choose foods at their freshest. Ripe fruits and vegetables are also typically at their peak nutrient content. Some produce like sweet corn and peas quickly begin to lose their sugars within a few days of harvest.

3. How do you maintain a healthy soil? Growing plants draw their nutrition from the soil, depleting the soil of important crop nutrients when the produce is harvested. To get the healthiest, most nutritious produce, check whether the farmer replenishes the soil with key nutrients, especially nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium. These are naturally occurring elements that come from either organic or commercial sources. Plants need to be "fed" just like people. Healthy soil produces healthy, nutritious fruits and vegetables.

4. What's best this week and why? Farmers markets are more seasonal than the supermarket. Early- and late-season produce might not be top of form.

5. Do you know of a farm I could visit? There's no better way to learn how your food is grown and why certain production practices are important than seeing it firsthand. Ask the farmers where you can learn more about growing top-quality, tasty produce.  (NewsUSA)