Farmers suggest buying local to avoid potential illnesses

SMITH COUNTY, TX (KLTV) - Just last week, the e-coli outbreak caused by contaminated romaine lettuce spread to Texas. The foodborne illness has even taken one person's life in California. Local farmers say they are seeing more people wanting to buy local produce, so they know where it came from.

"I put my first crop of onions in, in 1974," Dennis Flanagan, owner of Flanagan Farms says.

His produce goes from the farmer's dirt-coated hands to a grandmother's grocery bag within hours.

"We pick one day and come to the market the next day," local farmer Wayne Massey says.

Local growers all agree that buying from your town's own soil is the safest way to eat.

"Some people will get in an old dairy barn where cows have run for years, and it drops, and they just put it in the box; it's not safe," Flanagan says.

Flanagan sells his produce to Brookshire's Grocery Company in Tyler.

"In the Brookshire's store, in the produce department, you'll see locally grown produce," Flanagan says.

Lynn White says, like Brookshire's, he purchases all of his produce from local growers to stay out of the rat race that is mass production.

"If the supply is great, people cut corners; people do things they shouldn't do," White says.

Flanagan's theory for the e-coli outbreak that has now spread to Texas could be attributed to an unsanitary work environment.

"When you pull in, say 100 or 200 workers, unless you can test them all, give them a physical, someone might not wash their hands, or handle in an unsafe manner, and there is no way to know," Flanagan says.

It's no secret that local farmers work hard, and their best advice to consumers is to 'romaine calm' and buy local.

The Tyler Farmer's Market has officially opened for the summer. Vendors are there every Tuesday and Saturday.