Everyday millions of Americans walk into grocery stores. The doors open to reveal mountains of colorful boxes filled with pre-packaged meals, rows of exotic fruits and vegetables, and bulk bags of snack foods. We are hardly noticing that the stickers on our fruit say “Made in Chile,” that our fruit snacks are majority high-fructose corn syrup, or the complete mystery of the source of ingredients of pre-packaged goods.
The reality for too many people is that Cheetos are grown on a Cheeto tree. Meaning, there is a disturbing disconnection between the farmers of food and consumers. As access to manufactured food becomes more prevalent, the quality of what consumers are able to access decreases. The manufacturer becomes another middleman between consumers and producers. Unable to see past the smokestacks to the farmland, we are left oblivious, or perhaps apathetic, to the lives and daily struggles of local farmers.
Before You Begin
The miles that food travels before it reaches our plates is just one of the elements contributing to our current food systems’ impact on our environment. 25% of fossil fuel use and air pollution can be attributed to food. The further food travels to reach us, the longer it sits on a truck bed losing nutritional value, and equally, if not more important, the more fossil fuels will be needed to get it to its destination. Also, spending money directly in our local farmers has many economic benefits such as new jobs and stronger support for local businesses. Now that’s a substantial impact!
There’s so much you can do to directly support your local farmers.
- Get involved with Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) "“ A CSA is a weekly subscription to a local farms’ produce. Subscription lengths can vary from the few weeks of the peak growing season to year round. (All depending on your farmer.) Each week you receive an AMAZING selection of freshly picked veggies, fruits, and possibly even cheeses, eggs, breads and meats. Whether you volunteer to be a drop-off point, or a subscriber, getting involved with CSA’s shows that you directly support your local farmers. CSA’s cut out the middle-man which means no price mark-ups for you, more money directly into the pockets of farmers and unparalleled freshness. Farms that offer CSA’s are usually smaller, family owned businesses and they need all the support they can get! Generally speaking, farms that are able to offer the diversity of products needed to support the variety of produce in a weekly CSA, are less profitable, because they have forgoed growing acres and acres of big money crops such as corn or soybeans. However, these farms have a big heart and are dedicated to quality!
- Join an online local farmers’ market or food co-operative – a convenient way to shop local and support your local producers all year round. Read here to learn about an online farmers market available in the Texas Hill Country.
- Ask your local grocer to carry local produce "“ Sometimes, they just don’t know the demand is there! Let your local grocer know that you and your friends would love to buy locally grown produce!
- Shop at farmers markets "“ It’s an easy way to get to personally know the farmers who grows your food! The food you buy at a farmers market will travel a shorter distance, which means less use of fossil fuels and less air pollution. These markets also create a strong bond between you and other people enthusiastic about good, healthy foods!
- Spend a day working on a farm "“ Many farms will allow you to come and learn about farming by working the land for a day! It’s a fun way for you and your family to really get to know your local farmers.
- Keep updated with legislation concerning your region’s farms "“ Make sure that your local farmers are getting a fair deal. Small farms need all the support they can get. You can help by keeping up to date on issues important to them and supporting them in whatever way possible.
Suggested web links
Localharvest.org "“ Conveniently find your local farmers, CSA’s and farmers markets !
The Texas Department of Agriculture has lots of programs to encourage farming and food production in Texas
Contributed by Andrea Lewis | Master of Urban Planning and Policy Candidate | 5/8/2009 and updated by John Watson | 4/6/2010