Where's your food coming from?
GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- May is "eat local" month in Alachua County.
The celebration features a month long "eat local" challenge, a move to bring awareness to the handful of farms and local produce in North Central Florida.
The journey starts at 7am on a small farm, like this one off Highway 301 in Hawthorne. Farmers pick fruits and vegetables to be sold at the farmers market in town or to chefs at restaurants across the city.
"Feeding people healthy and nutritious safe food is one of the most important jobs," farmer Amy Van Scoik explains.
Van Scoik and her family have been running Frog Song Organics for four years. She says they aren't alone. You can find a whole community of farmers if you just take time to look.
"There are so many smaller producers and larger ones that are producing food right here."
She says it's easier to buy from big box stores but the results of buying local may surprise you.
"It's going to be a lot more delicious and satisfying."
Pat McCarthy, who makes jams and jellies from her citrus trees, says nothing beats eating food picked the same day.
"It hasn't been shipped across the country," she says, "It wasn't picked green and forced to ripen with gas."
Cliff Nelson, chef and owner of Paramount Grill in Gainesville, buys local any chance he has.
"You can't get some of this stuff from Sysco and US foods." He adds, "If you do it's grown so far away it doesn't have any flavor."
He says his customers prefer local every time.
"They like it and they want it."
The impact doesn't stop at the food on your plate.
"You're putting money back into the pocket of someone who is going to turn around and invest that money into our community."
McCarthy and other vendors like her say it's about making personal connections.
Shopping at farmer's markets is just one way to get farm fresh produce.
"CSA membership is a way people in the community partner with a farm and get a box of vegetables each week."
A relationship that sometimes last generations.
"I'm seeing the same people each week for a whole season," Van Scoik says.
With close to 1,000 customers shopping at farmer's markets in Alachua County, one foodie hopes her "eat local challenge" celebrates the growing culture.
"The eat local challenge is designed to encourage people to eat something local at every single meal," creator Stefanie Samara Hamblen explains.
A challenge, Hamblen says, is pretty simple.
"If you're having cereal or oatmeal for breakfast, throw some local blueberries on it."
She now publishes a monthly newsletter showcasing easy recipes for seasonal produce. Something everyone can become a part of.
"Eat local" month ends with a community celebration on May 31 where residents can talk about their experience during the challenge.
To find out about the Hogtown Homegrown newsletter and the Eat Local Challenge: click here.
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