I want to bring up the idea of food consumers doing things to help their farmers.
Why should we help our farmers? What’s at stake? The fundamental answer comes in two simple parts: 1) the global food system is fragile; and 2) food is vital to human success and happiness. Relying on a complex and unstable global food supply is risky business, so we should do what we can to help build a strong web of local food suppliers in our local regions, wherever they may be. As oil prices shoot up, food from far away becomes less viable. We need strong local seed banks, a diverse seed-saving network, and a deep local knowledge of how to grow our food. So support your farmers, especially the ones nearest to you. It might make a big difference in your life in the not-too-distant future. If you think about it, doing a favor for your farmers really amounts to acting in your own self interest.
What can you do for your farmers?
I use the phrase “your farmers” because anyone who grows the food you eat can be considered your farmer… in the same way that the person who delivers your mail is your mailman, the person who leads your yoga class is your yoga instructor, the person who collects your garbage is your garbage man. Talking about “our farmers” encourages a closer relationship between food consumers and food producers (Slow Food’s Carlo Petrini calls consumers “co-producers“).
The first thing you can do for your farmers is get to know them. And if you find that this task is easier said than done, maybe you ought think twice about the food you’re eating. Where does it come from? Who grew it? Is it healthy? Reliable? It’s your sustenance, your routine nutrition, your daily bread–so it doesn’t make sense to rely on far-off, unknown agribusinesses to grow it for you.
The second thing you can do for your farmers is to buy directly from them whenever possible. Direct purchasing usually means more money going straight to the people raising and caring for your food supply. It also means you get to know more about the food you eat.
The third thing you can do for your farmers is to pay them fair prices. If you’re buying directly from the farmer, fair prices don’t necessarily translate into expensive food, since you’ve cut out the middle man. Without making a decent living, farmers are tempted to turn to other livelihoods. And each time this happens, our food supply is less secure. If it’s hard to pay those prices being asked by your local farmers, think about cutting out as much expensive processed food as possible. According to a Seattle Times article, shopping at the farmers market is cheaper than the grocery store. And by building your menus around fruits, vegetables, grains and basic animal products, you can eat affordable, healthy, fresh (and tasty!) food. Oh, and you’ll be doing a favor for your farmers.
Finally, I have a personal favor to ask of farmers market shoppers. Stop and talk to your farmers! Even if you don’t buy anything, it makes my day a little bit better when you sidle over and say hello, have a chat. As a farmers market shopper, I used to hang back from the stalls and scope out the produce and prices from a distance, not making my move until I knew what I wanted. I was a lurker. But now that I’m a farmer–selling at the market–I know that I much prefer shoppers who come right on up and say hello, even if they don’t buy a thing. So please don’t be a lurker. Make a farmer happy, and don’t be shy at the farmers market!
-Emmett (usually Lynda is the blogger, but I (Emmett) will chip in now and again…)