28 March 2011

Farm Fresh

Did you know that purchasing your food locally has many benefits, not only to you, but to your community as well?  Here is a short list of the benefits of buying food directly from the farmer:

1.       Produce and other products are much more fresh and nutritious because they have been recently harvested, usually within 24 hours.
2.       It strengthens your local economy.
3.       It benefits the farming family.
4.       It helps provide food to underserved communities.
5.       You learn about how and where your food is raised by getting to know the farmers.
That being said, there are many ways you can purchase local food fresh.  One is by going directly to the farm.  The majority of farms in this county are family owned and operated and the growing trend for smaller farms is marketing directly to the consumer, rather than selling wholesale to a broker. 
Another is by purchasing a share in a local CSA.  CSA, or Community Supported Agriculture, is an arrangement where the consumer purchases a share or shares at the beginning of the year for the upcoming season’s harvest.  A mix of freshly harvested produce (some also include meat and eggs) is dropped off at a community location for the shareholders to pick up regularly.  This arrangement also benefits the farmers because it provides necessary income early in the season to purchase seed and supplies.
Visit your local Farmers’ Markets.  Farmers’ Markets are growing by leaps and bounds and not only  provide a way for the consumer to purchase directly from the farmer, but many also provide family entertainment, have festivals and offer a great place to socialize with friends.  Check with your local Cooperative Extension Office or Town Hall to find Farmers’ Markets in your area, or visit the following website if you are in New York:  www.nyfarmersmarket.com .
Farmers’ Markets also provide a means for low-income families to purchase fresh, high quality produce through local programs that provide financial assistance, such as WIC and the Farmers Market Nutrition Program.  Check with your local social services agency for further information or the State of New York Department of Agriculture and Markets.
I cannot stress enough how important it is to educate yourself on where your food comes from and how it is raised.  Local family farmers are stewards of the land.  We live and raise our families on our land; we work hard to protect our open spaces by keeping the land in agricultural use and preserving natural habitats by maintaining forests and wetlands as well.  We care about the animals we raise and treat them humanely.   We eat off our land the same produce we sell and we know exactly what has gone into to growing those crops and also what has not gone into those crops.  Good nutritional programs used in raising crops are important and go a long way in keeping the crops healthy and disease resistant and also in providing the consumer with nutritionally balanced food.
So eat healthy, eat local and support your family farms.  Without agriculture, this great nation would not be.

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