Thursday, November 4, 2010

Supporting Your Local Farmers

Owning a farm or garden, no matter how large or small, has numerous benefits for individuals and families.  First, children who grow up working in a garden or on a farm learn many valuable life lessons, like how to eat a variety of different foods, they like (and eat) more fruits and vegetables, the value of hard work, and how to plan and be patient.

Farms across the United States are facing a crisis these days.  The rising generation has less and less desire to be farmers in the future.  About 50% of all farmers are between the ages of 45 and 65, while only about 6% are under the age of 35.  The average age of a farmer is 55.3 years old.  But, with these decreasing numbers, we are seeing an increase in the innovation and acreage yields of the farms that are active.  However, each day many acres of farm land and many farms are lost due to financial issues or development.

A recent push that has helped to limit the sting of this decline in farm land is that of supporting local farmers.  Nationwide grocery stores have begun to open up sections of their stores for local farmers to sell their crops.  There are many benefits and limits to shopping locally.  First, food from local farms tends to be fresher as it usually picked fresh within 24 hours of being sold.  The food also tends to have less spoilage as the time from plant to shelf is much shorter.  The drawbacks are that the food is not necessarily healthier or safer to eat, and crops are available only when they are in season.  These are manageable drawbacks as customers have grown accustomed to certain crops coming around the same time each year.  Who doesn’t love a nice watermelon?  Maybe we wouldn’t appreciate it as much if we got large fresh watermelons all year round, instead of just during the summer.

It’s important to note that while local farms do produce high quality foods it is important for people to try a variety of fruits and vegetables.  The debate is not should we support local farms 100%.  If someone is able to shop locally and get a variety of foods, then it’s a blessing, but it should not be “all local food or nothing.”  Any fruits and vegetables will benefit those who eat them.  In summary, please support local farmers as you are able to, but most importantly – eat a diet rich in fruits and vegetables, wherever they may come from.


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