Fresh food — really fresh!

Published 10:26 pm Tuesday, March 15, 2016

It was 26 degrees this morning — not gardening weather. Yet a neighbor keeps getting fresh lettuce (really fresh!) delivered to her door. For a very reasonable price.

A click on “Virginia Grown” or “Buy Fresh Buy Local Hampton Roads” reveals the source — small local businesses working hard year round to sell fresh produce — veggies, dairy, meat, poultry and seafood. Good fresh food that doesn’t come from Peru, Chile, Mexico or even Florida or California — it comes from Western Tidewater.

The suppliers are using new catchphrases — “free range,” “hormone-free,” “organic,” “grass-fed” and “GMO-free.” Why? Because people are starting to wake up to the chemical overload that’s assaulting them and their children.

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So where can you find these fresh, clean lettuces, eggs, pork chops and oysters?

Some may come to you, like my neighbor’s lettuce. Delivering to a box on your porch like the milkmen of old, Neighborhood Harvest grows all kinds of greens hydroponically in Suffolk, then delivers to individual customers from Smithfield to Virginia Beach.

These lettuces have been picked within 24 hours of arriving at your door. We’re talking Bibb, Romaine, Mesclun and Red Leaf, as well as spicy radish shoots, kale, chard, baby collards — even wasabi for you hotties. For $10, $12, $16 dollars a week or every other week. Delivered. Less than 24 hours old.

They taste so good raw, you may wish to skip the dressing. We know. We tried them. Raw! And delicious!

Cross Country farms doesn’t deliver, but they market to Western Tidewater. They grow lettuce and tomatoes — big, thick, bright red, beefy tomatoes — all winter long, hydroponically. It’s hard to find the farm, but they sell to Grayson and Emma’s in Courtland, Farmer Franks in Holland, Windsor Hardware and Bennett’s Creek when supplies allow.

Some meat companies will deliver chicken, pork, beef, and more to your door, though they are much more expensive than the lettuce. Contact them at your local farmers’ market.

Then there are local farms you can visit locally to buy fresh meats, dairy and produce. In Suffolk, we have Full Quiver Farms, operating all year long. Oliver Farms in Smithfield is more seasonal, opening with berries in April and then moving on to corn, cukes, tomatoes, melons and beans. Clarke Farm in Western Branch offers 20 types of veggies in summer — and ice cream. College Run Farm in Surry, just west of Smithfield, lets you pick your own berries, beans and pumpkins.

Another source of fresh foods are CSA — Community Supported Agriculture — businesses. The consumer buys a “share” of the farm’s produce and gets a regular delivery of what it produces.

The best known and most commonly frequented source of fresh food is farmers’ markets. In Western Tidewater, we have three: the Smithfield Farmers Market in the bank parking lot off Main Street from 9 a.m. to noon, which opens March 19; the mid-week Carrollton market off Route 17, south of the James River Bridge, open 3-6 p.m. from June 15 to Aug. 31; and the Suffolk Farmers Market at 524 Main St., behind the Visitors’ Center, from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., opening April 30.

All offer veggies, fruits, meats, dairy and poultry, as well as crafts, music, petting zoos, and more. Take the kids!

And for local seafood, our favorite is Johnson and Sons in Crittenden, carrying something fresh all year long. Right now it’s oysters, but soon there will be blue crabs, and then come the soft shells. What is not to love?

Eat fresh. Eat local. Eat delicious. Avoid the chemicals.

Susan and Bradford “Biff” Andrews are retired teachers and master naturalists who have been outdoor people all their lives, exploring and enjoying the woods, swamps, rivers and beaches throughout the region for many years. Email them at