How to Support Your Local Farmers

There aren't many careers I respect more than that of a farmer. I'm a fan of the old "If you ate today, thank a farmer" saying. But, sadly, I don't feel as if they're given the respect or recognition they often deserve. We're a culture so disconnected from our food and food sources that we tend not to give a second thought to where our food comes from or who actually grew it.
But buying and eating locally is one step we can take to remedy that.

Why should we eat local?
In the words of Joel Salatin, "You, as a food buyer, have the distinct privilege of proactively participating in shaping the world your children will inherit."
I dunno about you, but that hits me pretty hard. We not only have a privilege, but I feel a responsibility to care about our food choices and make them wisely. And it goes beyond just that. Here's a few more reasons why you might wanna consider supporting farmers in your local area:

  • Shake the hands that grow your food. That's a concept that's pretty foreign to us, even though a century ago the hands that grew our food weren't hard to find. They were the hands of your friend, your neighbor, even your own. But there's something special we lost when we turned toward industrialized processes for making our food. There's a large gap, a disconnect between the soil and our plate. There's no relationship. And as creatures designed for community, that's a sad state to be in.  
  • Quality control.  Pick up an apple in the grocery store and ask it how it was grown- you won't get an answer. Go to your local farmer's market and I bet you'll find men and women more than willing to answer your questions about their food! They're proud of it, they put their sweat and heart into their work. And smaller productions require a higher level of transparency in their practices. So take advantage of that and get to know more about your food! What kind of diet did this chicken eat? Were these carrots treated with any herbicides or pesticides? How long ago was it harvested? And etc. 
  • Fresh, in season produce. Buying locally typically means eating more seasonally, something we're not accustomed to anymore. Centuries ago it wasn't easy to get a pineapple if you were in Canada in the dead of January. Just wan't gonna happen. But modern, industrialized food production has spoiled us a bit. I can think of nearly any fruit I want, stroll down to the grocery store, and know it'll be there, likely shipped in from somewhere in Latin America. And hey, I'm not complaining about that. But this idea of having anything we want, all the time, isn't exactly normal. We used to eat seasonally. Summer used to be a time when you just naturally ate more fruit. And when the cold rolled, the lack of available produce meant it was natural to gravitate towards soups, stews and the like. But if you're consuming what only can be produced around you seasonally, it really flips your perspective. 
  • Boost your local economy. Simple as that, if you're buying local it means you're investing in your town, your city, your people. Support your local community and help the farms around you thrive. 
  • Eat cleaner. While there's no guarantee your local farmers are practicing sustainable agriculture, there's a much higher likelihood they are. And again, when the man who grew those tomatoes is standing right in front of you, all you have to do is ask! And to be fair, the USDA Organic certification process isn't the easiest one, and lots of small farmers simply don't have the time or money to invest in it. But them not having that little green sticker doesn't mean everything. I'd rather eat an apple with no fancy labels from I farmer I trust than an imported, organic certified apple from the supermarket. 
  • Support a healthy environment. Lower-scale agriculture isn't just better for us, it's better for the planet too. Smaller farms tend have more diversity overall, which is great for the earth Monoculture is one of the most damaging things we do to our soil. And think about this, less distribution/shorter transportation means less pollution and less energy wasted. 

How to eat local
So I've convinced you to eat more locally. That's great! But now what? Buying food that isn't in your supermarket can be kinda scary for the first time. So here's some ways to get started when you don't know where to turn:
  • Your local health food store. Larger chains like Whole Foods or MOM's Organic Market will often carry local produce and animal products. Just read the labels! All in the comfort of that familiar grocery store setting.
  • Shop at farmer's markets. Summertime is prime time for farmer's market. Held in parking lots all across America, they're such a great way to ease yourself into your local agriculture community. And they're also just one of my favorite weekend activities. 
  • Join a CSA. Community Supported Agriculture, or CSA is an alternative agricultural model that directly links farmers to consumers. It's typically a long-term commitment, you pay for the season and receive a box of in-season produce (or animal products) weekly or bi-weekly. From Local Harvest, "There is an important concept woven into the CSA model... That is the notion of shared risk... The result is a feeling of "we're in this together"... Many times, the idea of shared risk is part of what creates a sense of community among members, and between members and the farmers. If a hailstorm takes out all the peppers, everyone is disappointed together, and together cheer on the winter squash and broccoli. Most CSA farmers feel a great sense of responsibility to their members, and when certain crops are scarce, they make sure the CSA gets served first." CSA's are about more than just buying locally, it's about cultivating relationships within your local community. 
For local farmer's markets, co-ops, and CSA's in your area, check out this link. 

Another great thing about buying locally is that it kinda forces you to eat real, whole foods. You're not likely to find bags of chips at a farmer's market. There's the occasional processed product, jam or homemade baked goods, but for the most part shopping from local farmers means cutting out all that junk as well. Added bonus!

Let me know what you think about farmer's markets! Are they your favorite summer weekend activity, or do you feel totally out of place there? 

Til next time,

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