A Local Guide to Finding the Freshest Produce
Have you ever noticed there are things you were forced to do in childhood that you choose to do with pleasure as an adult? You know, like staying in, going to bed early, and even eating your vegetables? I have always been a fan of veggies, but even I can remember sitting in the dark at my parents’ dining room table until I finished a plate of (Canned! Plain! Cold!) peas I had staunchly refused. The peas and my parents won.
If you have watched any number of food shows or skimmed through one of many food magazines, you know that vegetables can be the main attraction on your plate for breakfast, lunch and dinner. The best part is we aren’t talking about canned peas. Veggies these days are roasted, stuffed, grilled, sautéed and, no matter what, should be absolutely delicious. So good, in fact, that some days you won’t even miss the meat.
You can find some of the best tasting, freshest veggies at some local providers. Here are a few places you will want to check out.
Fresh Start Micros
Do you know Joe Dowdy? You will want to after this article—I promise! A few years ago he started a small greenhouse for vegetables simply to feed to his family. He began with tomatoes, peppers, green beans and lettuce. His plants took off, and they couldn’t eat nearly as fast as the produce was growing, so Joe began to give away all the extras. As he continued to hone his craft, Joe really “fell in love” with microgreens and began to reach out to local restaurants to see if anyone would be interested in purchasing from him. Thus, Fresh Start Micros was born.
“My staple microgreens is the mustard mix. It is a blend of different mustards that bring a spicy note to whatever it’s added to—salads, garnishes, wraps, etc. At peak, I was growing 30 to 40 trays at a time for local restaurants. They are grown indoors in a small indoor greenhouse. This allows the control of the environment much better than an outdoor environment, where they are very prone to diseases,” said Dowdy.
Staff at Isabella’s Italian Trattoria regularly use his microgreens. You’ll also find them occasionally at the Corner at Rivermont.
“I always welcome the opportunity to grow for anyone who asks and will continue to do so,” said Dowdy. “We have traded our outdoor greenhouse for a smaller container garden and continue to educate everyone we can of the benefits of homegrown, locally-grown, and the incredible benefits of microgreens.”
Dowdy is also working to teach his son about micros so that he may continue the business and hopefully expand it one day.
Want to get your hands on these microgreens? Just shoot Dowdy an email at or find him on Facebook. He is excited to share his passion for microgreens with our community. So excited, in fact, he will deliver them to your door!
Email Joe Dowdy at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Lynchburg Grows (LG) is sort of the coolest concept ever. The nonprofit is a seven-acre urban farm “dedicated to providing access to fresh, local, produce for Lynchburg residents, restaurants, and organizations, while also providing onsite vocational training for disabled and
low-income individuals,” according to its website.
LG says a quarter of Lynchburg residents live in a food desert, which is a higher number than any other city in Virginia. They are working hard through community gardens to make vegetables more accessible to everyone, and in a partnership with Live Healthy Lynchburg, they now support a mobile produce van that takes produce to areas around town with the greatest need.
You can support the LG mission and get your hands on their green goodness by signing up for a Veggie Box.
“Our summer Veggie Box is stocked with all the most delicious summer veggies like tomatoes, cucumbers, green beans, lettuce (early summer), peppers, eggplant, onions… We grow everything we can on the farm, but supplement from other farms for things we do not grow like mushrooms, peaches, corn and melons,” said Shelley Blades, executive director. “We also try to highlight local artisans and give our Veggie Box members something unique like tea from Good Karma Tea Company or bread from Lorraine Bakery.”
The Veggie Box season runs from March 22 through December 20. The cost breaks down to $20 a week, and there are several payment options.
“Pick up is every Wednesday at the farm. We like the pickup method better than delivery. We find it gives customers more freedom to choose which items are most appealing to them and personally pick out their vegetables,” said Blades.
But what if I get my veggies and am stumped with what to do with them? I hate to waste food, especially fresh local vegetables. But Blades says they have you covered.
“We send out a weekly newsletter to our customers to let them know what their veggie options are that week. If there is a ‘funky’ vegetable (think colorful carrots or Chinese cabbage) we usually give a little description about that and provide several recipes.
But, regardless of ‘funky’ vegetables, a few recipes are always included,” she said.
Learn more at www.lynchburggrows.org.
Lynchburg Community Market
Located downtown at the corner of 12th and Main streets, the Lynchburg Community Market is a place where you can choose from a plethora of fresh produce all year long. There are rows and rows of dedicated local vendors.
You may find something you have never seen before, and most of these farmers and sellers are excited to share with you easy ways to prepare their produce. I have been fortunate enough to have some very kind vendors help me figure out quantities of items I would need for serving a group at a dinner party, what to serve, how to keep things fresh and how to best prepare the veggies.
More than produce, these days at the market you can find handmade candy, homemade breads, local jams, eggs, meats, goat cheese, coffee and so much more.
From potatoes to squash, spring onions to juicy tomatoes, the market is an excellent choice to get all your local produce (and more!) from friendly farmers at even friendlier prices.
Learn more at lynchburgcommunitymarket.com.
By RACHEL DALTON