You will not want to miss the first farmers’ market to be held in Riverside in years on Wednesday, July 15, from 3:30 to 7:30 p.m., and every Wednesday thereafter until Nov. 11.

Located at 17 E. Burlington St. on the parking lot next to Riverside Bank, you will be able to buy fresh fruit and vegetables, organic breads, croissants and baguettes, fresh salsa and pasta sauces, honey, locally grown flowers and organic fertilizer.

With your fresh tomatoes and baguette in hand, head over to Riverside Foods to pick up a nice bottle of red wine, mozzarella and extra virgin olive oil, and you will enjoy a treat of a meal that will make you forget that you are not actually dining in a Tuscan hill town. Buy a second bottle of wine, and you might be speaking Italian at the end of the night as well.

Spearheaded by Randy Brockway, a Riverside resident and farmer, and facilitated by the Riverside Economic Development Commission under the leadership of Joe Pilewski and Eric Kollman, the Riverside Farmers’ Market is a tangible success for Riverside on every level.

Food grown in or close to our own community was probably picked within the past day or two. It’s crisp, sweet and loaded with flavor. Produce flown or trucked in from California, Florida, Chile or Holland is, quite understandably, much older. Even in a week-long delay from harvest to dinner table, sugars turn to starches, plant cells shrink, and produce loses its vitality.

Locally and regionally grown food also means less transportation and, thus, less use of energy and less air pollution. Just consider that produce in America on average travels 1,500 miles from farm to table. The farmers’ market is a small step towards greater local self-reliance, a tenet most certainly to gain importance as we strive to break our dependence from fossil fuels.

The downtown Riverside location means access by foot, bike, train and car, at a minimal distance, again with all the associated benefits to the environment. Additionally, the market will increase the number of customers in the CBD who will patronize existing businesses.

What is ironic about the ongoing discussion of what kind of business district people wish for is that we already have just about every business type serving our daily needs. Before or after the farmer’s market, consider getting your car fixed, open up a bank account, buy a hot dog or a piece of artwork, spend time in the day spa, surprise your loved ones with a new hairdo, shop for a new house and a tank-less water heater, buy life insurance, and top it off with a triple scoop of ice cream.

The farmers’ market is also a significant contribution to all efforts already underway to strengthen and build our community. When you buy direct from the farmer, you are re-establishing a time-honored connection between the eater and the grower.

Knowing the farmers gives you insight into the seasons, the weather and the miracle of raising food, and farmers, in turn, benefit from direct input from their clientele. In many cases, it gives you access to a farm where your children and grandchildren can go to learn about nature and agriculture.

The Riverside Sustainability Council wishes the Riverside Farmers’ Market all the best and hopes that it will be a huge success. In a village that continues to take small but important steps on the road towards a more sustainable and healthy future, like the first-time-ever recycling bins at the July 3 picnic and concert at Guthrie Park, we hope that Randy Brockway’s personal initiative is recognized for the kind of leadership by example that we clearly need and that inspires others.

One similar initiative, which is such a win-win proposition that it is long overdue, is the “Farm-to-Schools” program. These programs are popping up all over the U.S., and connect schools with local farms, with the objectives of serving healthy meals in school cafeterias, improving student nutrition, providing health and nutrition education opportunities that will last a lifetime and supporting local small farmers.

Contact the Riverside Sustainability Council with the e-mail below if you are interested in Farm-to-Schools, and let’s get started together. In the meantime, let’s shop at the Riverside Farmers’ Market and our many local businesses and contribute our part towards a more thriving business district.