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From Farm to Table

Community

Chef Michael Quarles with Shawnee Mission Health

I grew up on my family’s organic farm in south Kansas City, and my father still sells produce at local farmers’ markets, so I understand firsthand the importance and benefits of shopping local. When you choose to eat local, you open yourself up to a world of benefits. Eating local means picking a healthier option—you get a natural, more flavorful product and you help improve the local economy by putting dollars back into the community.

Local versus organic

Eating local means purchasing products that were produced or grown within a 250-mile radius of where you live, which eliminates the need for packing gasses and pre-ripening. A common point of confusion is between “local” and “organic.” Here’s the difference:

  • Organic foods are not genetically modified and are produced without using modern chemicals and pesticides. However, these foods aren’t necessarily produced locally and many are shipped cross-country, which means they were likely harvested before their prime.
  • Local foods can be organic, although some are produced using non-organic farming methods. Many are grown without using chemicals.

Pick each season’s best

In Kansas City, you can find locally produced meats and cheeses as well as fresh, seasonal produce. You can purchase these foods at small farmer’s markets, stores like Hen House and Price Chopper, and even Shawnee Mission Health’s Harvest Kitchen restaurant during the summer months.

Look for a sticker that says “Buy Fresh, Buy Local,” which means the product is Good Agricultural Practices (GAP) Certified. In order to receive this certification, farms need to go through rigorous inspections to make sure they are up on all agricultural standards.

For the freshest produce, buy these fruits and vegetables during the following seasons:

  • Spring – Cabbage, spinach, radishes, asparagus
  • Summer – Zucchini, summer squash, tomatoes, carrots, broccoli, cucumbers, corn, peppers, blueberries, raspberries, strawberries, cherries, peaches, watermelons
  • Fall – Potatoes, sweet potatoes, beets, kale, Brussels sprouts, apples
  • Winter – Pumpkins, butternut squash, acorn squash

Simple is often best for preparing local produce. A nice roast in the oven or a quick blanch on the stove top is all you need. If you take the time to find a local product, then you want to maintain its integrity and natural flavor.

SMH incorporates fresh, local foods in meals that are served at the hospital restaurant. We serve a farm-fresh vegetable every day, use local milk products and have partnered with a local coffee company. We’re invested in the community and want to help people change their diets and understand what foods they need to eat to achieve better health.