| Bethany Davis | Updated: October 11, 2018 |
Here’s a look at my top five ways to show your local farmers the love, countdown style:
#5: Buy a higher portion of your food directly from a farmer.
Many towns and cities now have excellent and diverse farmers market opportunities. This is a way that a higher portion of profit for the food goes to the farmer. And often, it ensures you’re getting really fresh food- not stuff that was picked weeks ago (before it was ripe and then shipped far distances). More nutrients for you, more love for your local farmer.
#4: Support on-farm opportunities and events.
Hayrides? Apple/peach/blueberry/strawberry picking? Cooking or food-prep education events? Show up, and sign up! I went to a pickling seminar at a local farm. We bought cucumbers and herbs they had grown and paid a fee to have them teach us how to pickle like experts! We supported a local farm and walked away with our glorious full jars of food on its way to being pickled. Win-win.
#3: Share the land.
Got land to spare? It can be difficult for farmers -and farmers-in-the-making- to secure land that’s cheap enough to make their venture into a profitable business. This is a main reason that family farms are dwindling. So, if you have some land that you’re not using - maybe let a fledgling farmer grow on your land in exchange for veggies?
#2: Consider the value of food, and weigh your options.
Cheap food often comes from exploited soil, families and communities. If you want to empower the broader farming community, consider the willingness to pay for higher-quality food when you’re shopping, should your budget allow for it. While affordability is a major factor for the majority of our population, a side-by-side comparison of the cost -and the nutrient value- of local, organically grown produce vs. pre-packaged processed foods proves it can often cost less (not more!) to eat farm fresh food. Additionally, many farmers markets have programs that double the value of an EBT card, meaning every dollar spent is actually worth $2!
#1: Marry a farmer
(Okay, let me explain.) The NUMBER ONE way you can empower farmers in your community is actually… To buy a CSA!
And as Mary Berry (the great Wendell Berry’s daughter) once said: “Going to the farmers market is like dating a farmer. Buying a CSA is like marrying them.”
Community Supported Agriculture programs are the best way to provide steady, predictable business and support for farmers near you. A long term commitment like a CSA enables farmers to grow or produce the right amount of food at the ideal pace - an efficient and reliable way to approach the running of their farm and the timing of their harvests or slaughters. (Of course, actually marrying a farmer is by all means wonderful, too.)
One last thought:
The 5 points above are all viable ways to empower your local farmers. But, something else that is also important - don’t forget to talk to them! Tell your farmers what you want. Convey your values and what you are willing to pay in exchange for food that is in alignment. Ask them how you can support them. Farmers are innovative, eager and extremely hard working. Your conversation may serve as a catalyst for a new idea.
Pictured here, our own Sara Newmark’s daughter, Eloise, of Sweet Seed Farm, Putney VT.