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Texas Music pioneer Guy Clark wrote a song about these plump, nutritious, red beauties. Photo by Jeff Prince.

Decades of boozing, smoking, and overall gluttony had left me with one foot in the grave and the other swollen and tingly from Type 2 diabetes. I faced a decision. Either say, “I’m too old to change” and continue the slow, painful slide toward a hacking, winded, and waddling death. 

Or make a change.

A year later, I’m lighter, healthier, and happier. My enchilada dinners, hot dogs, and pancake dinners haven’t been replaced by healthier choices so much as they’ve been supplemented by them. Now, I grill onions, bell peppers, broccoli, and other veggies to top off the hot dogs, and I sprinkle bananas and fresh blueberries onto the pancakes. When I heat up a frozen pizza, I add grilled veggies on top. I’m not going to win any fitness awards, but eating a little better and taking a brisk walk every morning have allowed me to lose 20 pounds in 10 months without feeling like I’m dieting.

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I’m still 30 pounds too heavy, but what’s the hurry? I’ll get to my perfect weight eventually as long as I keep walking and reaching for fruits and veggies. That’s easier to do when the produce is flavorful. And nobody does flavor like local growers supplying the area’s farmers markets. Tarrant County offers dozens of them. Green Source DFW, a project to align environmental groups, green businesses, and the North Texas community, provides a thorough list of area farmers markets at Greensourcedfw.org.

Think of them as frequent gathering places for farmers or sales reps selling locally grown food straight to consumers.

The number of markets has increased nationwide every year since the USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Services began tracking them 24 years ago. In 2017, the USDA listed 8,687 farmers markets in its national directory.

Tarrant County public health officials say buying from local growers means the goodies will most likely be fresher because they are allowed to ripen before being picked. Freshness means more flavor. Eat a soft, juicy, sweet, tangy Parker County peach, harvested that very morning and hauled to a farmers market, and you will never again want to buy a typical supermarket peach that is hard as an apple and flavorful as caulk.

Eating healthy is easy when you’re shopping for groceries at farmers markets. Photo by Jeff Prince.

Better flavor keeps you coming back for more healthy stuff and reduces the chances you’ll trash the veggies for the drive-thru instead.

There are plenty of other reasons to hit a farmers market rather than a big box retailer. Nutritionists say fresher produce provides more nutrition. And Mother Nature benefits as well. Buying from local growers reduces the impact of transporting the goods. Long transports can mean temperature changes that zap nutritional value.

County officials say local produce is more likely GMO free, meaning it hasn’t been genetically modified in a laboratory, and you’ll feel safer having more knowledge about where and how your food was grown.

Several times, I’ve been visiting local farmers markets when a pickup truck pulls up hauling fruits and veggies, and the driver turns out to be the same person who grew the produce. I’ve started up conversations in these situations and learned about their growing methods. I’ve even had the feeling the farmers would let me tour their fields if I were to ask.

Willie Nelson loves farmers. Sure, he is high as hell most of the time and loves most everyone. But he has extra love for farmers because he dislikes corporations snuffing out the little guys who till, seed, and harvest the land and help build their communities.

All those E. coli scares we hear so much about? That type of outbreak more typically occurs in vast industrial settings rather than on small farms.

As a bonus, farms contribute quite equitably to the tax base since they don’t typically require many municipal services.

I visit several markets in the area, but my favorite is probably Ridgmar Farmers Market because it is combined with Cowtown BBQ under the same roof. That way I can get my greasy meats and healthy green stuff in one stop, providing the proper yin and yang to my pseudo-diet.

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