MEADOW LAKE—The fresh produce looks delicious at the growers’ market. But what do you do with it once you buy it?
During the summer there are several sources of fresh produce — community gardens, growers’ markets and grocery stores. But some people are still not eating fresh fruits and vegetables.
“What we find is that people are sometimes hesitant to use fresh produce, not because they don’t want to eat vegetables, but because they are not familiar with how to prepare fresh vegetables,” said Laura Bittner, family and consumer science agent at New Mexico State University’s Cooperative Extension Service office serving Valencia County.
To help alleviate this hesitancy, during the community event, Food Fiesta, people will have an opportunity to taste recipes made from fresh produce.
“Our goal is to provide participants with tastings of very simple recipes that they will be able to prepare at home and enjoy with their families,” Bittner said.
The Food Fiesta will be from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 24, at the Meadow Lake Community Center. The event is a collaboration between NMSU Extension, Valencia County government, Valencia Soil and Water District and Valencia Community Gardens.
“The entire event is focused on spending time outdoors, eating healthy, being healthy, exercising and enjoying services and amenities offered in Valencia County,” Bittner said.
During the fiesta, the Meadow Lake Community Center will have a ribbon cutting at 11 a.m. for newly installed covered picnic areas and outdoor exercise equipment.
“In the past, the community center has been under-utilized,” Bittner said. “The county has really focused on making it a family-friendly center for the residents of Meadow Lake.”
Along with the tastings, there will be activities for families, including music, door prizes, and a small library on wheels will be giving books to youth and adults for free.
The kids will have an opportunity to explore the Meadow Lake volunteer fire department’s fire truck as well as play in water sprayed by the fire department’s personnel.
“It is very exciting to see all of these organizations working together with the same mission and purpose,” Bittner said. “It’s a great collaborative effort from different organizations that haven’t necessarily worked directly together in the past, but all of us are trying to improve our community in different ways. So it makes this event much more affective and fun.”
Living in a food desert
Including fresh fruits and vegetables in a family’s diet can be difficult when living in a food desert such as the Meadow Lake community.
“Many communities in our county are considered food deserts because of the distance to grocery stores and transportation issues,” Bittner said. “Accessing fresh fruits and vegetables can become challenging.”
In some of these Valencia County areas, community gardens are springing up. Gardens in El Cerro and Meadow Lake have fairly active participation.
“These gardens are wonderful opportunities besides providing fresh produce,” Bittner said of the two gardens supported by the Valencia County Soil and Water Conservation District.
“People, who may or may not have any experience gardening, can work alongside others who have that experience,” Bittner said. “By spending time volunteering in the garden, it gives the family access to fresh produce and helps save the money in their food budget.”
In addition, because of the successful yield of some of the produce, the garden members intend to sell at the local growers’ market.
“Growers’ markets are another wonderful place for families to purchase fresh produce,” Bittner said.
There are three growers’ markets in Valencia County — Valencia Y in Los Lunas on Tuesdays and Anna Becker Park in Belen on Fridays, both from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m.; and in Bosque Farms from 8 a.m. to noon on Saturdays.