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Know where your food comes from

Since the recall of cat and dog foods that contained melamine and resulted in the death of pets nationwide, knowing where your dog's food comes from has become important. Not long after this recall, 1,400 hogs in Western North Carolina were euthanized after they had eaten a shipment of this potentially contaminated pet food. These pigs had been destined for human consumption.

Knowing where your food comes from -- or putting a farmer's face on your food -- is central to eating healthy. Eating locally has become more fashionable than eating organic -- although sometimes you can have both. Local farmers' markets are located from Waxhaw to Huntersville, and many of these markets, such as the markets in Huntersville, Gastonia and Matthews, have restrictions on their vendors and require participating farmers to be located within a certain radius of the market. When you buy directly from a local farmer, you support local agriculture as a viable part of the community.

THE LARGEST AREA MARKET is the Charlotte Regional Farmers' Market, which charges their North Carolina vendors less than out-of-state vendors. Although many of these vendors grow their own produce, some of these vendors buy produce to resell, which is why you can often see out-of-local-season produce for sale. This market is one of five owned by North Carolina and operated by the N.C. Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.

The Charlotte Regional Farmers Market, 1801 Yorkmont Road. Hours are Tuesday through Saturday, 8 a.m. until 6 p.m.; Sunday 12:30 p.m. until 6 p.m.

THE MATTHEWS COMMUNITY FARMERS' MARKET was established in 1992 to "encourage farming in the Matthews area and to strengthen Matthews sense of community". The participating farmers, both organic and non-organic, live within a 50-mile radius of Matthews. The market is operated by the Matthews Community Farmers' Market Inc., a non-profit corporation and requires a family member of the farm be on site to answer questions. On May 19, Marc Jacksina, chef-owner of Lulu, will host a cooking demonstration. On May 26 John Matthews Chef de Cuisine at Blue will demonstrate his cooking.

The Matthews Community Farmers' Market, North Trade Street (next to Renfrow Hardware), Matthews 7:30 a.m. until noon every Saturday from April through November.

DOWNTOWN RESIDENTS can celebrate the tenth season of Center City Green Market on 7th Street. This market has a variety of vendors such as Creekside Farms, Unity Farms and Greeneman Farms; fresh fish (including from the Carolina coast) from Michael LaVecchia's Seafoods.com, flowers from Jefferson Herr and handmade crafts such as jewelry, stained glass and pottery from local artisans. May 19 is when the Hawaiian Luau Party will be held. Attire: Hawaiian shirts. Hula contest held at 11 a.m. On June 16 is the Great Cookie Crumble, a judged annual cookie contest. July 7 is the third annual Firefighter's Pancake Breakfast (they cook) to raise money for the Charlotte Chapter of the Burned Children's Fund.

The Center City Green Market, 7th Street between College and Brevard streets, across from the Levine Museum of the New South. Unlimited free parking is available in the 7th Street Station parking deck. Hours Saturday 8 a.m. until 1 p.m.

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