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Support your local farmers

Farming is a tough business but recent trends in food have made it easier for communities to come together to support their local farmers. Find out how you can help.

Union Square Farmer's Market

Union Square Greenmarket, New York, NY
Photo credit: littleny/iStockphoto

There’s nothing more satisfying than eating the perfect produce. Maybe it’s a firm, juicy peach, snappy beans or crisp apples. Whatever it is, the perfect produce is always picked at its peak and arrives to the dinner table (or the mouth anyway) as quickly after picking as possible.

It’s not easy being the farmer who brings us those perfect bites, and your local growers can use all the help they can get. Even when the weather cooperates and the growing season is good, being a farmer is fraught with toil and challenge, all so we can enjoy that perfect bite. For locavores, or people who would rather eat local food than food that has traveled a long distance, the good news is that there are an increasing number of ways you can support your local farmer, emotionally and financially, to ensure that all that delicious produce keeps coming.

Community Supported Agriculture (CSA)

CSA produce

At this point, the CSA has been become a part of American urban culture. The idea behind the CSA is simple: You buy a share of a CSA, which entitles you to a portion of the farm’s output each month. It’s great for the farmer because they get capital when they need it and great for the consumer because they get great produce when they want it.

If you have not bought a share in CSA, consider doing so. The benefits for you the eater are great because of all the delicious food. The benefit for the farmer is even better because they get the cash they need to do their job. Even if you have done a CSA in the past, consider signing up again as many new CSAs have started and are producing great food.

Support pro-farmer legislation

You can vote with more than your dollar, you can vote with your vote. Use your power in this democracy to vote for legislation that helps your farmer and use your voice to let your political representatives know that you want them to support pro-farmer bills.

Shop at farmers markets

Want to help a farmer? Go buy their products… directly from them. The beauty of the farmers market is that the growers themselves drive up and sell their products straight to you. It actually saves you money because you are removing the middlemen and it helps the farmers because even at the discounted prices you’re paying, the farmers make more than if they sold to the middleman.

More than the exchange of money, though, farmers markets are great for opening lines of communication. If you like what a farmer is doing or enjoyed the food you bought from them last week, let them know! It’s also a chance to ask about their growing practices and to let them know (in a nice way) that they would have a market if they supported certain practices.

Eat at locavore restaurants

As great as CSAs and farmers markets are, they still make you cook and sometimes you just want to go out to eat. That’s cool because you can find restaurants that are buying local food and serving it up for your eating pleasure. Sadly, most of the time, these restaurants aren’t chains, but that’s okay. It means you can keep the money in your neighborhood. Oh, and if you’re not sure if the restaurant supports local food, just ask!

Shop at locavore grocery stores

Last, while it does require you to cook again,  you can seek out grocery stores that sell local food. In smaller towns, this may not be a problem since they oftentimes buy from farmers in addition to larger warehouses. However, in in larger cities the warehouse is usually the main source of produce, but you may find certain produce and meat raised by local farmers. In fact, some chains like the Hen House Markets in the Kansas City metro area offer their own farmers markets at their stores and feature numerous local growers. These grocery stores ensure a steady flow of cash to the farmer, which in turn allows them the security to stay in business.

Other ways to support farmers

Top 10 U.S. farmers markets
10 Farmers market shopping tips
8 Things to consider before buying local

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