July signifies an increase of local produce as farmer’s markets and stands begin to pop up all over Rhode Island. It seems like every day in July is an opportunity for new, fresh and local ingredients. The strawberry season is coming to a close, as nature begins to replace them with succulent blueberries and cherries. The beginnings of seasonal tomatoes and squashes have begun to spring upon us, with radishes and baby carrots reaching their peak time of harvest.

You never have to travel far to find these vegetables, and so many other flavorful ingredients, with farmers markets and farm stands right in your back yard. Just outside the bustling city of Providence, you can find the Hope Street Farmers Market every Saturday from 9:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. and over the border in East Lyme, Connecticut, the White Gate Farm Stand opens Wednesdays and Saturdays from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. These markets carry incredible produce, but aren’t limited to only impeccable fruits and vegetables. Carrying a multitude of artisan foods gives consumers an immense amount of options and makes for great family trips. Travel to Casey Farm in Saunderstown, RI on Saturday mornings and you’ll find fresh seafood, local baked goods, artesian brewed coffee and even a slice of homemade pizza.

A trip to you local farmers market or farm stand can mean so much more than just picking up a few items to bring home for dinner, it can be a meeting place for friends and family on a beautiful summer day.  Explore the rich history of the farms you visit, and take a moment to talk with the farmers about what your growing in your backyard gardens.  This garners a sense of community and gives a greater appreciation for the hard work that goes into creating healthy and sustainable food.

As the Food Forager for the Ocean House and Weekapaug Inn it is a pleasure to work with these local farmers, showcasing their passion and commitment to creating a better culture through organic foods for our community.  I see this everyday when visiting Schartner Farms to pick up heirloom cherry tomatoes; seeing Jeff and the crew coming off Quonochontaug Pond with the day’s harvest of Watch Hill Oysters; or seeing Max from Hillandale Farm stop by to drop off the best kale and basil you’ve ever seen!  We love our farmers, and we invite you to meet them too.  They are featured on every menu at the both properties, and included in every one of my daily culinary classes.

Learn about Matunuck Oysters at the “Home Cook Oyster Stew” class on Tuesdays, or hear about local farms during the  “What’s in Season” class on Thursdays. Every Saturday at the Watch Hill Inn, we include a children’s class where we talk about the Farmers Cow dairy co-operative as we make Rhode Island milkshakes.

With everything that’s grown, raised, caught, or harvested here in southern New England, it’s a wonder that we’d ever need to go to a commercial grocery store.  But if you do, look carefully, you may see some of these same names there too!