With what consumers today know about the practices in place in the food system, you’re wise to question where your food comes from, and how it was raised and processed. From avoiding chemicals and GMOs to boycotting industrial farming, and getting the most health benefits from what you eat – there are lots of people who are interested in getting to know their farmer. So, exactly how does one go about that? This will probably only be possible if you shop at farmers markets and on-the-farm stands. Big food farms could be half a world away from your location, and they are nameless, or sold under a label that represents a cooperative.
Buying locally raised food gives you more control over the quality of what you eat, and it boosts your community’s economy too, making where you live a sustainable place. Naturally, the freshest foods will be found at your area farmers market, or at a farm stand, though those are a rarity in a large city. If you live in a smaller town, you’re apt to run into your farmer at the hardware store, the gas station, or the tractor dealer’s parts desk – but these aren’t the places you can get to know your farmer and learn about the food he grows. This errand has interrupted his busy schedule, and was no doubt run simply because he couldn’t continue without whatever it is he’s picking up.
Your farmer, like any businessman, is best approached when you’ve got an appointment, which might not be the easiest thing to land certain times of the year. A farm is a busy place – be it urban, on the fringe, or rural. Days off and leisure time are rare, and burning daylight is just not done when the sun is shining.
1) Start At The Stall
Whether you’re a city dweller or live beyond the suburbs, the best place to strike up this conversation with a farmer is at market. That’s what’s on the schedule for the day. Here the farmers will have a few moments to answer questions about how the foods were raised, and processed if applicable. At a big city market, you might discover that the farmer is from several hours away though, making it really inconvenient to visit and see how your food is grown. Of course, most who want to know their farmer would not consider this local food, though it is way better than produce that’s spent the last few weeks in a packing crate or shipping container.
Naturally, you’ll find it difficult, if not impossible to monopolize much of the farmer’s attention at market, so the conversation will be kept short. And this gives you no visual information about where said food was grown. A point that leads a growing number of consumers to want to visit local farms. Once again, you can’t just show up and expect a tour, and a lengthy chat. Make an appointment, or attend a farm event.
2) Farm Events
Many small farms have U-Pick crops, and when they’re ready to harvest, anyone can visit the picking field. This will probably be fruit that doesn’t transport well like strawberries, and raspberries, or tree fruits – though there are other things local farms might offer in this fashion. There will be a field attendant who helps you weigh your haul and handles payment, but it most likely won’t be the person you seek. This is an excellent job for teens who live or work on the farm, or someone else who isn’t needed on the day’s schedule. It is possible to learn what you need to know about different foods the farm sells, but don’t count on it. The field might be totally disconnected from the farmstead too. Tractors make it possible to farm land that is miles from home.
Farm dinners are becoming popular harvest events, and as this is a social gathering, might present you with the perfect opportunity to take a tour of the farm to see for yourself the conditions your food is grown under, as well as learning what you want to know about what went into the crop from planting to picking. These events are definitely enjoyable, but aren’t free, and if the crowd is large, you might find it impossible to gather all the information you sought, and such a thing might only happen once a year. And if the farm has no appropriate place to hold such an event – it might take place at an area pub or restaurant. Not very convenient. You might as well live 4 hours away from your food source.
So what’s really the best way know everything about your farmer and your food? Stick to Number 3…
3) Grow Your Own
It’s the fastest, easiest, and most convenient way to know your farmer when you are the farmer! Growing your own food guarantees the healthiest, freshest, and most satisfying products you can get your hands on. You’ll know exactly what went into each crop from the moment the seed sprouted. From a few herbs or sprouts on a windowsill, to an indoor grow room, a backyard veggie patch, or a plot at a community garden… growing your own food is fun, interesting, rewarding, and definitely the coolest way to be sustainable and green. Zero miles food is the best quality of all.