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At one time, the number of farmer's markets in Hamilton County could be counted on one hand, but in recent years, the city has opened its streets to many more.

"Chattanooga has a farmer's market nearly every day of the week," says Andrea Jaeger, program coordinator at Crabtree Farms. "What's more, many of our corner stores are stocking fresh products on their shelves to increase access to fresh food in their communities. We are also seeing more community gardens and backyard gardens popping up across the city as our neighbors are taking the step to grow fresh foods for themselves and their families."

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Anne Braly

For the past several years, dozens of local restaurants have also taken pride in serving local produce. But what about those of you at home? There's a myth that buying local produce is more expensive than that found in grocery stores. As a result, Crabtree Farms is sponsoring a class, Buying Local on a Budget, to teach you how to incorporate local food into your family's diet without breaking the bank. The class will offer tips on buying in season, when items are typically more affordable, as well as tricks to make your food allowance go a little further.

"When you live on a tight budget, you have to make choices on how to stretch your food dollar. Many folks turn to highly processed, easy-to-get and easy-to-eat foods, but that comes at a cost, not only to the taste and quality of the food. Most of these highly processed foods are full of fat and calories and lacking in nutrients," Jaeger says.

"When you buy local, you get the freshest, tastiest food available. Most of the items you will find at the farmer's market were picked within a day of being sold to you, which means they will taste better and be full of nutrients. When you buy local, you get a better product. We want to help folks who attend this workshop learn how best to incorporate local items into their budget."

The class will also help people learn about eating with the seasons and planning ahead. Here's a timeline of when to expect some of the fruits and vegetables grown in our area. As you see, there are only a few months when something isn't coming out of our gardens.

* May: Strawberries.

* June: Blueberries and cucumbers.

* July: Tomatoes and blackberries.

* August: Apples, okra, garlic and summer squash.

* September: Grapes and winter squash.

* October: Sweet potatoes.

* November: Arugula and greens.

* December: Beets, potatoes and winter squash.

Registration for the class is $10 per person. The class will be held on Friday, May 22, from 6-7:30 p.m. For registration or more information, call 423-493-9155 or e-mail achill@crabtreefarms. Students will be provided with recipes to take home, as well as tasty treats that will be made during "class."

FREE 'CUE

Shane's Rib Shack, located at 4484 Frontage Road in Cleveland, Tenn., is holding its annual Rib Giveaway on Saturday. The first 100 guests to come through the doors will receive a free half rack of slow-cooked baby back ribs, a 20-ounce beverage and a special edition Rib Giveaway T-shirt in honor of the official month of barbecue. Mark your calendars and be there when the restaurant opens at 11 a.m.

Contact Anne Braly at abraly@timesfreepress.com.

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