Yakima Valley Agriculture

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eatlocal.jpgBy Yakima Valley Visitors & Convention Bureau

Eating local is a snap when you're surrounded by farms and orchards.

A pineapple just tastes better when it's eaten in Hawaii, and there's nothing more delicious than a pecan freshly plucked from a tree in Texas. The same is true of a peach or a pear or a ripe red tomato when enjoyed in the bountiful Yakima Valley. In this sunny region rich with orchards, farms and vineyards, it's never been easier to eat local.

More than 40 commercial crops are grown in the Yakima Valley of Washington, which enjoys sunshine 300 days a year. Farm-fresh produce is within reach almost year-round, from asparagus in April to apples and potatoes in November. Some summer months are particularly fruitful, like July, which tempts with just-picked apricots, green beans, blueberries, corn, nectarines and squash.

Even in the winter months when the fields are quiet, you can celebrate the region's agricultural industry by exploring its history. Several Yakima Valley museums and attractions are dedicated to farming and food production, such as the Central Washington Agricultural Museum in Union Gap, the American Hop Museum in Toppenish and Darigold Dairy Fair in Sunnyside.
The Yakima Valley is one of those rare destinations where "local flavor" can be experienced quite literally. It's a region meant to be not just seen, but also tasted -- whether you have an afternoon or all the time in the world.

In the market for fresh produce?

Visiting a weekly farmers market is a great way to sample and stock up on local fruits and vegetables in a single trip. Five weekend markets are held throughout the valley, in Ellensburg (9 a.m.-1 p.m. Saturdays, May through October), Goldendale (9 a.m.-2 p.m. Saturdays, May through September), Prosser (8 a.m.-noon Saturdays, May through October); Sunnyside (4-7 p.m. Wednesdays, June through October) and Yakima (9 a.m.-2 p.m. Sundays, May through October). Here are a few tips for making the most out of a visit to the farmers market.

eatlocal2.jpg1. Make a list. In bountiful months, the market brims with vendors. Check the harvest schedule to determine the fruits and vegetables you're after and shop for those items first. If you have time left over, you can troll for other delicacies.

2. Bring cash and reusable bags. Stop by the cash machine on your way to the market; most vendors don't accept checks or credit cards. Also, bring reusable bags from home to cut down on the use of plastic or paper bags.

3. Get there early. For the best selection, arrive right when the market opens. You might find better bargains just before closing, but by that time, your favorite fruits and vegetables may already be sold out.

4. Sample often. Many vendors offer free samples, so you can compare apples to, well, apples. Don't be shy about tasting -- you might find your favorite raspberry at one farm and the most delicious plum at another.

5. Bring a cooler. Your car can get toasty, especially during the summer, so bring a cooler to transport your purchases, whether you're going only as far as a shady picnic spot or driving home across the mountains.

Click Here for a list of some of Yakima Valley's Farms.

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