by Leslie Horton MA, MCHES, Director, Health Officer, Yavapai County Community Health Services
Optimal health requires fruits and vegetables. And the fresher the better! We have probably all heard that we should be eating five or more fruits and vegetables daily, but exactly how do we do this?
Yavapai County Community Health Services has several programs to assist with this mission. The WIC (Women, Infants, and Children) program offers extra farmers markets benefits during the growing season. The Community Health Education program offers school programs in nutrition education, gardening education and in-class food demos.
There is also a food-mapping project taking place that has identified over 400 edible food resources in two Cottonwood neighborhoods. Over 300 pounds of food were recovered and donated to the Old Town Mission because of this new program.
Other community organizations are working hard with similar goals. School food-service programs have incorporated fresh salad bars, in addition to offering fresh fruits and vegetables with meals. Many of our schools have started school gardens. What better way to get students to try new vegetables than to have them plant the seeds, care for and harvest the food themselves?
Some smaller, rural markets have started to carry fresh fruits and vegetables at their customers’ requests. Lack of larger supermarkets within close proximity of some small towns leaves some people without a source for fresh produce. There are farmers markets in many communities. Make it a weekly family activity, and visit one near you. The variety and vibrant colors may entice you to try something new and different!
There are also several Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) programs in Yavapai County. Check them out and arrange to pick up a box of fresh fruits and veggies on a weekly basis. Support local farmers, and feed your family some of the freshest produce around.
So, with all of these options, what if you still want to grow your own? What fun! Again, it’s a great way to get your family to eat their vegetables, spend time outdoors and be active at the same time! Find out if your area has a community garden. Plots are reasonably priced, and it’s a great way to meet your neighbors. Plant the seeds, water the soil, and watch your food grow. Or visit your local nursery or farmers markets for seedlings that are already started for you! And if you want a garden at your home, and you don’t have the space to start a little garden, containers on a deck or in the yard work, too. Tomatoes, basil and other herbs all grow well in containers. It is such a treat to pick them and add them to your salad within minutes. Just remember, it can get hot out there, so you may need a hat, sunscreen, and plenty of water to drink!
For more information on the programs mentioned above, please contact Yavapai County Community Health Services at (928) 771-3122 or go to yavapai.us/chs
Have questions about gardening?
Here’s a list of resources:
- Your local nursery
- Farmers market growers
- Your neighbor with a green thumb
- U of A Cooperative Extension/Master Gardeners Helplines:
Prescott area: (928) 445-6590 Ext. 222
Verde Area: (928) 554-8992