Food doesn't have to come in shelf-stable packages to be convenient. And in the next four weeks, we're going to continue to transform you into a fresh-food aficionado. Soon enough, you'll be planning meals-and foraging snacks-from the healthy ingredients stashed in your fridge. It's that simple. We're taking it in steps, offering up a new focus each week. Last week, we helped you Stock Your Fridge with Fresh Foods.

This Week's Focus: Visit a Farm or Farmers' Market

I'm a huge fan of farmers' markets. In fact, that's where you'll find me with my family most Saturday mornings. Why? Well, for one, I like to go straight to the source for the freshest produce possible. But there are lots of other good reasons to shop, cook and eat from farmers' markets-or a farm. Here are a handful:

1. You'll find inspiration. Seeking out the freshest-looking fruits and vegetables may lead you to get cooking with foods outside of your regular repertoire. What to do with that perfectly ripe [fill in the blank with whatever fresh gem you found]? Find ideas in this collection of Recipes Fresh from the Farmers' Market.

2. It's fun for the whole family. That's also why my family (which includes a 4- and 2-year old) goes berry-picking in the summer and heads to the apple orchards come fall. Enjoy the sunshine while gathering berries, apples or citrus fruit at a local pick-your-own farm. Pick more than you can eat quickly? Freeze the bounty-our Guide to Freezing Fresh Produce will walk you through the process.

3. It could help your health. There's no better way to inspire healthy eating than a market or farmstand packed with fresh fruits and vegetables. It's hardly news that fruits, vegetables, nuts and legumes are good for you-they provide fiber, vitamins and minerals. Still, the evidence for just how good they are continues to mount. Study after study shows that eating a plant-based diet helps keep blood pressure and cholesterol from climbing and lowers the danger of developing diabetes. Looking for quick and easy suppers from the garden? Browse this collection of vegetarian stir-fry recipes.

4. You're supporting your community. For many small growers, a thriving local market offers the opportunity to make a decent living from farming, pay workers a fair wage and plan for the future. Plus, thriving farms help ensure green spaces between towns and cities and conserve land for agriculture.

5. You're encouraging sustainable agriculture. Small farms have been leaders in adapting sustainable agricultural techniques that protect water and build healthy soils. They have revived growing techniques that don't require as many chemical fertilizers and pesticides as some large operations do, and adapted to specific local growing conditions. Their hard work has helped prevent contamination of rivers, streams, lakes and oceans and often prevented farm workers from being exposed to chemicals that are known to pose health hazards.So… get thee to the market. Or head straight to a farm. And have fun! For more Keep It Fresh tips and recipes, visit ourKeep It Fresh page.