May marks the opening of many area farmers markets in central Ohio. The appeal of vine ripened fruit and vegetables freshly picked draws in many customers. The taste of a freshly picked tomato or a juicy peach is enough to draw shoppers to local farmers produce stands.

The idea that you can get produce "cheaper" at a farmer's market is no longer the case. Small farmer's market growers often cannot compete with the prices of major grocery chains. The cost-competitive chains buy produce from all over. The fruit has been harvested, well before it is ripe. This allows it to last longer than vine-ripened fruit from fresh picked farmers markets.

Farmers as well as loyal customers say the quality and taste is well worth the increase in price. Vine ripened tomatoes are much sweeter than ones picked before their prime. The term "fresh produce" is not to be confused with organic. Just because it is freshly grown and picked by a local farm -- does not mean it is organic. Farmers who deal with organic produce will specifically label their fruit and vegetables.

Many grocery chains now buy their produce from local farmers. They will advertise the produce as homegrown and usually name the farm that the produce comes from. Is it worth the extra money? That is a personal preference.

Visiting a farmers market takes me back to my childhood. I have fond memories of going with my grandmother on a hot summer's day and selecting fresh tomatoes, peaches, sweet corn, and watermelon. It is a wonderful way to support the community -- and local farmers. For a complete list of the Farmers Markets Ohio, click here.

For now happy shopping!

Laurie Dixon, TheBAG Lady