By Holly Pellham Davis *******
They say, “you canʼt take the farm out of the girl,” and, well, I confirmed that this weekend. As soon as I stepped onto the grounds of the Chestnut Square Farmerʼs Market in McKinney, my heart soared.
Not to overstate something completely obvious, but we need farmers. They grow the food we eat, right? Sadly, not so much anymore. The days of family owned farms growing organic or non-genetically modified crops are almost a distant memory. Corporate giants in agriculture control our food supply by having over a 50% market share in every category, some as high as 90%, giving them the control to dictate prices on both the buying and selling side. US government subsidies and the control of Monsanto and their ever increasing power have left consumers with less choices and higher prices. Not only has it pushed our small family farmer out of business, but it also leaves us with mass-produced, highly-chemically-treated “food.”
On the flip side, less than 1% of the population in America claim farming as their occupation. Farm production expenses average over $100,000 per year, per farm, and less than 1 in 4 farms in the US produce gross revenues over $50,000. Yet, farmers are the backbone of America. How are we not supporting them? I believe firmly that if you buy local and support small organic farmers, you can change the world.
The good news is that a number of grass roots movement to support local farmers, especially organic, have recently sprouted up and, it seems, the tide is beginning to turn…the key is to keep the momentum going, as the benefits of supporting small, local farmers are as plentiful as the nutrients their precious crops yield.
Here are a few of the most important benefits of shopping local farmers:
It gives more power to the purchaser. By buying from local farmers, you are exercising your right to have a choice and “voting with your dollars.” It provides local income to an essential profession. By buying directly from the farmer, they reap the benefit of all their hard work by retaining more of the profit instead of it going to the retailer. And you can save a little money too!
It’s positive for the environment. Local foods are good for the environment, reducing carbon footprint & supporting farms in your communities. More dirt, less concrete = happy Earth!
It’s healthier. Nutrient levels are highest when crops are freshly picked and eaten / frozen immediately. Local, fresh, organic foods are the most nutritious! What is good for your health is also good for the health of the Earth.
Here my tips for a successful (and fun) outing to your local Farmers Market:
Use this map to find a Farmerʼs Market near you.(This is the market I went to last weekend, and I LOVED it!)
Be sure to bring a cross-body bag and lots of cash, as most vendors don’t take checks or credit cards.
You’ll also want to have plenty of canvas shopping bags and mesh produce bags on hand as well as one soft pack insulated cooler bag with ice for eggs, goats milk, meats, or any other item that needs refrigeration.
If you’re planning to purchase organic, pasture raised eggs (which I highly recommend), save and carry your own paper compostable egg cartons, as most vendors put their eggs in Styrofoam cartons. Send a message, set an example, and protect the Earth by bringing your own paper carton.
Make sure the produce is local. If the fruits or veggies are adorned with code stickers or the vendor has brand name opened produce boxes stacked up behind their display table, somethingʼs up, and chances are its been purchased at a wholesaler for retail sale. You’re aiming to give your business to our hardworking local farmers.
Don’t’ be afraid to ask questions! Ask if its organic. Ask what they use on their crops. Ask if they spray. If you’re not confident the product is truly organic, don’t be afraid to walk away.
Eye your pick. Know exactly the one you want before you ask about it.
Trust your nose. Smell your produce. A tomato should smell like dirt, a cantaloupe should smell sweet.
Choose brightest, deepest in color of the selection, as they often are the highest in nutrients.
Be open to experience different foods. Try white radishes, turnip greens, rhubarb, purple hull peas (one of my faves), different peppers and herbs. Avoid corn and conventional berries, peaches, and potatoes.
Remember you can freeze. Many crops can be cleaned and “put up” or frozen for later use. I love to freeze okra, green beans, berries, and peas so we can enjoy their goodness all year. ￼
So how about joining me next Saturday, at your local farmers market? Facebook or tweet (links below) me your photos, questions, or comments while your there. Iʼd love to hear from you!