I had to sit down and write this while the thoughts and emotions are hot on my mind. I think it is evident from a lot of my posts and the content on our website, my feeling about the importance of the local food network. I always encourage everyone to support local growers so that these growers can continue to be successful. The closer your food sources are to you, the healthier they tend to be.
One of the best sources of locally grown food is the local farmer’s markets. It is spring, and the local markets are beginning to show the results. There are now many vendors with some of the best-looking local produce and other locally produced foods that I have seen in a long time. We had the time this morning to visit three of the local markets and peruse the offerings from the local food growers.
The Encouraging Side
On the upside, the regular growers were out in force and they have plenty of fresh early vegetables. Remember it is only the first of June and many of the growers don’t have the facilities to start early vegetables or to grow year-round. These local growers are seasonal and tied to the vagaries of the weather, just like the rest of us.
What I did see was some great looking leafy vegetables and some early root vegetables, particularly beets. These are the first vegetables usually to be ready for harvest in our climate and region, so it wasn’t unusual. The quantities and quality were exceptional. These local growers are doing a great job.
The Unpleasant Surprise
Much to my surprise, I came across a vendor with long tables full of good-looking vegetables, including all kinds of squash, tomatoes, and even cantaloupes and melons. I looked at the signs which proudly proclaimed these vegetables were from a small town about 50 miles north of where we live. Now, anyone should recognize that we are not nearly deep enough into the growing season locally to be harvesting much of any kind of fruiting vegetable, much less melons.
A peek into the trailer behind the vendor’s booth revealed stack after stack of vegetable boxes, all bearing the label of a local food wholesaler. A quick question of one of the vendors tending the tables about where the produce was grown brought the answer that it comes from the small town to the north. I asked again pointedly where the produce was grown, not where it was from. All I got a shrug of the shoulders and a look at the vendors back.
Ask any local grower what the biggest problem in local markets and you will often get the same answer. Vendors are selling the same produce that you can get at the supermarket, taking away business from the local growers. Too often, these vendors don’t make it readily apparent that what they are selling is not locally produced. In my opinion, they are walking a thin line of fraud.
Support Local Growers
Ask questions when you shop at a local farmer’s market. Talk to the vendors. Those that are selling the foods that they grow and are proud of their product. These local farmers love to talk about what they dos. They can tell you how they grow their produce, what methods they use, and they will gladly share that information.
I encourage you to go to the local farmer’s markets and support your local food web with your purchases. Whether you are shopping for vegetables, locally grown meats, or locally produced baked and canned goods, your dollars stay in the community and work to make more products available. You can always go to the supermarket and buy the days, if not weeks, old produce that is grown on factory farms using who knows what chemicals or you can support your local growers.
Make Your Choices Carefully
You make the choices. I know where I prefer to spend my money and what I prefer to put on my table. My only advice is to beware of what you are buying. If common sense tells you that the fruits, vegetables, and melons you are seeing are out of place because of time or weather, then ask some questions. You might be surprised by the answers.