Even though I love fresh vegetables. I’ve never been interested in growing my own produce. Too much work, and I never experienced the much ballyhooed Zen calm often touted by my gardening friends.  So when summer arrives I frequent either the small food retailers in my neighborhood, or the large grocery stores. But last year I became a regular at my local farmers markets. During the summer, six farmer’s markets set up shop in my town -- outside on city plazas and parking lots, including one of the oldest and largest located inside a community center. Their vegetables are generally less expensive than at my supermarket. Plus, I can channel my inner Victory Garden selecting heirloom tomatoes, and sampling eye-catching varieties, like my new favorites purple carrots and potatoes.

There really is nothing like the just picked freshness of local farm grown vegetables and fruits. And that’s one of the reasons Farmers markets are more popular than ever. Consumers are enthused about locally grown food --–the inspiration for the environmentally focused Locavore movement. With 243 registered farmers markets, Massachusetts now boasts the 7th highest number in the nation.

Most of them attract consumers like me who have lots of fresh food purchasing choices. But increasingly, low-income residents have access through the snap program formerly known as food stamps. The Farmers Market Coalition says nearly 60 percent of the 243 accept snap benefits, and in Boston 23 nearly 90 percent do. Do farmers market make a difference?  Yes, confirmed a 2012 study, which found that snap shoppers at farmers markets ate more vegetables and fresh fruit. This is significant because so many low-income residents live in food deserts; their neighborhoods are chock a block with fast food, but not fresh food.

Still farmers markets are not a wholesale solution for this traditionally underserved population. A lot of snap recipients are still unaware of this option, and of course it’s mostly a seasonal availability (though there are some year round farmers markets.) And yes, one is in my town. Another big issue is the cost---the unit price that seems a bargain for me, is a stretch for many snap shoppers. The Boston Bucks program has helped make it easier for snap shoppers in the city. That program offers a dollar for dollar match of snap monies up to 10 dollars per market visit. 20 dollars worth of food for 10 dollars has gone a long way to boost snap participation at farmers markets-- from 2300 dollars in snap purchases when the program started in 2008, to nearly two hundred thousand last year. By the way, there is documented widespread public support for the expansion of the double bucks program.

Both commerce and community are well served by farmers markets. Local farmers can directly market their wares, and the community of nutritionally at risk consumers can get more healthy food.

Meanwhile, I plan to enjoy as much of the delicious bounty as I can. Fresh peaches, anyone