The Importance of Supporting Your Local Farmer
Hi Calico Babes! I wanted to chat with you about why and how I support my local farmer and why you should too!
In today’s day and age, we typically do our shopping at chain grocery stores. I’ve chatted in both my Eating Seasonally in Winter and Eating Seasonally in Spring guides about how produce being at the grocery store doesn’t necessarily mean it’s in season or what’s best for your body in that current season, because God created certain fruits and veggies to be in season, in the season that our body needs the nutrients from them! Still with me?
Overtime we’ve traded slow Saturday morning trips to the farmers market and small family owned shops on the corner, for hectic Sunday grocery shopping at big name grocery stores, buying old, out-of-season produce wrapped in plastic. I believe it’s time to shift back to the roots of eating seasonally and sustainably, and one of the most impactful ways we can do that is by supporting our local farmers.
My challenge for you this summer is to take the time to get to know a local farmer and purchase your produce from them. You can do this either through a CSA Box program or by going to a farmers market nearby.
Click the button below to find a CSA program and farmers markets near you:
Let’s chat about a few of the reasons why supporting your local farmers is so beneficial for you, your community, and the farmers.
Farm to table: local is fresher and better for you
Unfortunately, most fruits and veggies at the store are already at least 2 weeks old by the time you purchase them. These foods are picked prematurely because they’re traveling so far, or are even often artificially ripened. Studies show that prematurely picked produce, artificially ripened produce, and produce that sits in a truck or on the shelves at the grocery store for a long time loses its nutrients, as well as its flavor. I could go to Whole Foods and get a pack of blueberries from Florida or I could head to a local blueberry farm and pick them right off the bush and the difference in taste and health benefits would be abundant. When you buy from local farmers, you know the food is fresh- most likely picked within the last day or two or maybe even just that morning. When it's fresher, it tastes better and is better for you.
Eating seasonally: Local is always in season
Like I mentioned earlier, just because you can find a fruit or vegetable in the store doesn’t mean it’s in season. Because of modern day conveniences, you can buy strawberries in the middle of winter, even if you live in the north, but should you? Definitely not. For everything there is a season, including food. Back in the day when eating seasonally was just simply eating, food was cherished and enjoyed wholeheartedly, and looked forward to. For example, there are 4 weeks of the year where strawberries are truly in season, and during that time they should be enjoyed as a delicacy, but once they’re gone they’re gone, and it’s on the next fruit that it’s in season, so on and so forth.
Food that is not in season is forced to grow unnaturally and is then imported far distances. This is detrimental to the environment and affects our health. When you eat local, you have no choice but to eat seasonally which impacts your health and the environment in a wonderful way. Local food is picked when it's ripe and has its full nutrients. Learn more about eating seasonally here and here (guide to eating seasonally in the summer is coming soon!)
Sustainable living: local is better for the environment
On top of the food being fresher and local which impacts the environment greatly, smaller farms also use less resources to produce their food compared to large corporate-run farms that don’t care about the environment. It’s usually in the small farmer’s interest to be as eco-friendly as possible (ie no chemicals) because it’s one less expense for them. Another benefit of eating locally is that resources were not wasted to ship the produce far distances, creating less carbon emission and reducing packing use.
Direct to consumer: supporting local and small
Shopping from chain grocery stores gives us food that comes from large farms owned by corporations, not families. The people doing the hard work are usually underpaid migrant workers who never get to see the fruit of their labor, literally. The produce is then sold to various middlemen and distributors before finally arriving at your grocery store. This leaves the original farmers and workers with close to nothing in their pockets, and instead the large corporations making the big bucks.
When you buy local food directly from the farmers, the produce is going straight to the consumer. No middle man. No jacked up prices. No supporting invisible corporations with sketchy practices. All of the money goes straight to the farmer, supporting their family and their farm directly.
When you shop small and local, you know where your money is going and who it’s supporting. When you buy from a small business (or a small farmer!) an actual person does a happy dance. Keep that in mind!
You know exactly what you're getting
A local farmer will be able to tell you details about the crops that you would not be able to find out from shopping at the grocery store. How it was grown, when it was picked, if it was sprayed and if so with what, etc. When it comes to food everyone has different aspects that are important to them. Whether it's eating organic, or making sure your eggs are sustainably and pasture raised in a cruelty free environment, so on and so forth. By going to the market you can find a farmer who produces their food in a way that aligns with your values and your needs. Most farmers are happy to chat about their produce, how it’s grown, and all the details of their crops! This creates a wonderful connection between the farmer and consumer that you don’t experience when you shop at grocery stores.
There are more options for Plastic-Free and Package-Free Produce
While some grocery stores offer plastic and package free produce, many are still attached to their beloved packaging (ahem, @traderjoes) and we can’t always avoid it. Right now most stores don’t cater to those of us who are trying to lighten our footprint, but I have found that farmers markets are a lot more package-free friendly. While most farmers do offer plastic bags for you to take your purchases home in, most are delighted when you bring your own bags to use instead of theirs. It’s super easy to bring a few cotton bags and a straw market basket to cart your goodies around in! Not to mention it’s much cuter and aesthetically pleasing than toting around plastic bags during your market trips.
My Favorite Market Essentials
My favorite market essentials include a few organic cotton bags, a straw basket bag, reusable bamboo utensils (for eating from food trucks or having market picnics without plastic utensils!), and a bamboo veggie brush for when I get home and wash all the yummy fruits and veggies that I pick up from the market. You can shop the essentials I use here:
Erica Strauss in her book The Hands-On Home, said it best,
So instead of waiting for someone else𐆑someone bigger and more powerful and more important𐆑to tackle environmental, economic, or health issues at the painfully partisan macro level, we are using the power of our purse and our decision-making at the super-micro level to advocate for our values. We may not be able to directly influence national farm policies, but we sure as hell can influence the success of one particular small farmer with our support.
How beautifully said! We have the power to choose what goes into our bodies and where we get it from. I'm not going to get into food politics right now, but just consider this- instead of supporting large corporations that care nothing about our health or the wellbeing of their farmers, we can take our money elsewhere and instead support an individual family who is also a part of the same community we are, all while feeling good about our food choices.
I’m excited to see you supporting your local farmers this summer! I’ve been enjoying receiving a weekly CSA box from a local farmer, and look forward to hitting a few weekend markets soon too. I’ll continue to share the goodies I get throughout the season!
If you adventure to a market or pick up some yummy local produce, snap a picture and tag us @calicoandtwine or @girlincalico so we can see and share! I love seeing what you guys are up to and how you’re taking steps to live more simply and sustainably. Until next time!