Written by Stacy Myers, Guest Writer

I’m a country girl, born and raised on a farm in Virginia. My parents are excellent at growing a garden. I never remember a summer without having something to preserve, even if it was a “bad year.” I’ll admit I took it for granted. I grew up and got married and discovered something. My parents did not pass their growing gene on to their oldest daughter.

I have what my husband commonly refers to as The Black Thumb of Death. If I touch it, it dies. The only things I grow successfully are mold and children…but not moldy children. We’ve tried to grow tomatoes and other various vegetables in little containers on our deck. I’ve even tried growing “hardy” herbs. I’ve found out very quickly that the only thing I can grow is a hosta plant – and I’m not sure I could eat that.

What’s a Girl To Do?

Last year, we had the year of the $2.50 tomatoes. I purchased a HARDY tomato plant from the Farmer’s Market for $5. We got two tomatoes. Expensive plant.

So, I’ve found very quickly that there are lots of other people out there in my shoes. Either they can’t grow things or they live somewhere that doesn’t allow them the luxury. But, fear not! We can still have our vegetables and eat them too…we just have to be a bit more creative.

Here are 5 options for having fresh-grown vegetables without having to pray daily over your withering tomato plant. Amen.

Image by Celesteh

5 Ways to Get Fresh Produce Without Having a Garden

1. Trade or Mooch

Bartering is a great way to stay in budget and still get awesome veggies! Maybe you have a best friend who just loves to grow things. Isn’t there something you could do for her in return for some produce? Maybe she needs babysitting. Maybe she needs her car washed. Something, anything.

My husband has, in the past, kept up friends’ gardens while they were on vacation. While he was doing that, he got to bring home anything that was ready to be picked. Score!

Mooching is my favorite way to get vegetables. Put the word out that you’re a lousy gardener – church is an excellent place to do this. Put on a sad face…maybe even cry a little bit. I guarantee you’ll be given baskets of veggies in no time. This works the best on my parents. They know I’m pathetic, so they give me produce. In turn, I help my mom with the canning each year.

2. Visit the Farmer’s Market.

We’re very lucky that fresh produce seems to the popular thing to do right now. Everyone is “going green” and Farmer’s Markets are popping up all over the place. When I was little, it wasn’t like this at all. But since I’ve grown up and got married, we have a local Farmer’s Market in every town close by. Nice!

This is a really great option because you get to support the local economy – and shopping at the Farmer’s Market usually won’t break your budget. I’ve also found that this gives me the option of trying new and different veggies. Not sure you like purple potatoes? Buy a few and try them! Lots of fun. (By the way, purple potatoes ROCK.)

3. Visit road-side stands.

Okay, I realize this one might stretch it a little bit…and perhaps this just comes from my neck of the woods – but we have little roadside stands that pop up anywhere and everywhere. Pop has some extra strawberries, so he loads them up in his truck and runs down to the local Chevron to sell them. Bingo. Great prices, fresh, and local.

I also realize this might induce the heebie jeebies in some of you. Why on earth would you buy strawberries from Pop You Don’t Know? Excellent question. Here’s my answer: Why on earth would you buy strawberries from Grocery Chain Who Gets Them from Who Knows Where?

NOTE: Do not buy produce from someone selling in van, unless you desired to get yanked in and kidnapped. This has been a public service announcement.

Image by Patrick Feller

4. Support Your Local Produce Market.

My family has always owned a local produce stand. It’s about 2 minutes from my parent’s house and it was started by my Uncle Harold. Now he’s gone and his son runs the business. I love running down there and getting fresh produce. And talk about service! Local places like this usually over the best customer service.

Maybe you also have the same option close by. This produce is almost always grown locally – which gives me great relief. I have this thing – I don’t like buying produce from foreign countries. Call me nutso…but I just don’t.

NOTE: Local produce will not always be sold as “organic” even though some of it meets the requirements. The government requires STRICT standards and tons of paperwork to get that label. Government smoverment.

5. Join a Local CSA.

What is a CSA? It stands for Community Supported Agriculture. Basically, when you join a CSA, you pay a fee for the year (or half year) and you get a box of produce from a local farm. The produce you receive is what’s in season at the time. You don’t get to choose, it just comes. This can be good, or this can be bad…if you hate turnips, you probably don’t want a box full. But, it does give you a great opportunity to try new things.

Here in Virginia and Tennessee we have a great resource for finding things like this – LocalGoods.org. I’m sure you have something like that around as well – Google is your best friend when trying to find a local CSA.

I do have plans to eventually try my hand at gardening again, but probably not until next summer. With our new debt free house purchase, and a new baby on the way we’re a little busy at the moment. However, I do have plans to try my hand at Box Gardening.  And even if I kill everything in it, it will be an excellent place for my children to play in the dirt.

How do you find local produce?

Top image by Ecokarenlee