We are two-thirds into our growing season. The spring salad and greens did well. The organic strawberry pick-your-own was an overwhelming success, the corn came in for the first time in two years and potato harvests have been good. String beans are coming in at about eighty pounds a week and we finally got our first “word of mouth” sale on the organic chickens. Just to even out all the good things. I found out I have to start a five-year inoculation protocol because I am dangerously allergic to bee and wasp stings. I guess being stung as many times as I have (at least 50 since moving here) has not helped.
We started at a new farmers market, located in the city, that is truly a producer’s only market. I know you are thinking, “aren’t all farmers' markets producers only” and no, they are not. Always be weary of the huckster, ask your farmer questions about his or her sustainable practices, the names of their vegetables (is it a Diva cucumber? an heirloom tomato?) and where their farm is located.
Caveat Emptor is the way you should approach farmers markets. There are more posers trying to make a fast buck by not growing but buying in bulk and re-selling. Do not be afraid to ask questions, they will only serve to help you. Your farmer is there because he or she is proud of what they have to offer. To do what they do is truly amazing. Think about that, before they even plant a seed great care has been taken to make sure the soil is ready and at its optimum. It takes time and energy to keep weeds and insects down and virul and bacterial outbreaks minimized.
The latter issue is important and makes soil and crop rotation so vital to the operational health of the soil. Not only does resting soils and planting nitrogen fixing grasses and other biomass greens help to maintain soil health it reduces the potential for major infestations. Your farmer will know about this, they will know about integrated pest management and management intensive grazing, if they have animals. Most will speak to the trials and failures that they face and how hard it is to get fresh, safe produce to you. Farmers are not perfect they are human but the ones that take great care of the environment and their animals are the ones that truly deserve to succeed.
Your farmer will know intimate details about the products they sell, be it animal, vegetable or mineral. I always thought farmers talked so much because of the solitude of the job. Now, I think, it is just shear knowledge gained from the struggle of providing food for their community. There is a plethora of experience and knowledge obtained each growing season. No one season is ever the same, I go back through years of our daily notes and the only constant is problems.
Problems in the form of insects, drought, disease, and predator attacks, infrastructure breakdowns, equipment failure, bee stings and so the list goes. I have nothing but admiration for anyone that chooses to grow. When asked to help educate, I give of my time and knowledge willingly in hopes that these people have an easier time then we have. Yes, I joke about the sanity of making the choice to grow but, food never tasted so good. Small family farms struggle, the life is difficult. However hard, they should be respected because it is the journey they have chosen.
Buy Local: Why support the IFC when they are the ones placing the environment in peril?