Eat your fruits and veggies.

You can take this advice for its dietary benefits - a bowl of spinach has hefty amounts of vitamins A and C and iron, and goes great cooked with fresh garlic, olive oil and cannellini beans.

Or you can do it simply to support New Jersey tourism.

Over the years, South Jersey shore towns have embraced summertime farmers markets to offer their visitors a true taste of Garden State produce.

And regional farmers who grow fruits and vegetables at local farms are drawn to the sun-tanned masses who flock to resorts like Ocean City and Margate.

Many have their own roadside farm stands and other venues for commerce but find shore towns in Atlantic and Cape May counties are worth the transportation -and traffic sometimes, too - to sell to vacationing crowds.

For Galloway Township farmer Mark Ferguson, who drives his produce 17 miles to set up a table at the Ocean City Farmers Market, the reason is simple -"Volume."

Similar markets are held at sandy towns along the coast - from Atlantic City and Margate to Stone Harbor and West Cape May.

We're happy to see the marriage of two of New Jersey's largest industries - tourism and agriculture.

And we'll take any opportunity to remind out-of-staters that we're called the Garden State for a reason.

Ranked among the states, New Jersey is a top-10 producer of cranberries, bell peppers, spinach, peaches, blueberries, cucumbers, squash, tomatoes, apples, sweet corn and snap peas, according to the state Department of Agriculture. That includes nearly 26 million pounds of spinach last year, and 120 million pounds of bell peppers. (By comparison, the Empire State Building was made with 114 million pounds of steel.)

Across New Jersey, state farms produced nearly $429 million worth of fruits and vegetables.

In just Atlantic, Cape May and Cumberland counties, there are more than 80 community farmers markets, roadside markets and pick-your-own places.

Not too shabby. Stop at one sometime and make a nice, fresh vegetable-rich salad to go along with dinner.

We in New Jersey and at the shore tend to get a bad rap from late-night comedians and the occasional MTV smash hit reality show starring Snooki and J-Wow.

So it's refreshing when we can combine two of our beautiful state's best assets - our beaches and our farmland - into a viable and beneficial co-relationship.

We're not saying you should give a big bear hug to the next locally grown Jersey tomato you buy. You might bruise it.

But reflect for a second on where that tomato came from. And where you come from.

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