I love farmers markets. They help complement my attempts at gardening and my mission to keep my blueberry bush going strong. But my budget can quickly fall apart when walking the isles of the market looking at the products and trying to decide what I will take home.
This week, the family took a five-minute “road trip” to the Masonic Village Farmers Market to try out the ice cream offerings. Along the way, we drove by one of the farm’s orchards and was impressed by the cherry trees. They look good and heavy with fruit. Barring any surprises, I hope to be back to purchase some cherries, along with peaches, to turn into cobblers, pies and jams.
There has been a lot a talk about country-of-origin labeling, or COOL, and there’s no question that those who are impassioned about buying local are upset to see the labeling law dismantled. However, there are larger issues at play, such as the World Trade Organization, which has told the United States to repeal the law or face the trade retaliation consequences. It’s too expensive a risk, so lawmakers have begun efforts to repeal the law.
As a commodity dairy farmer – someone who sells to the general marketplace – COOL’s repeal is needed to sustain my market. Dairy farmers reaped the benefits of record profits last year thanks to exporting more than 15 percent of our milk to other countries, mainly Canada and Mexico. A drop in export volume is the main driver of milk’s falling prices this year. A further contraction of exports would make that worse as domestic supplies swell.
So, where does that leave those who want to buy local? At the grocery store, look for the state’s “buy local” label on products. Many state departments of agriculture have adopted such programs. When you can, swing by the local farmers market. It might not be the one-stop shop of a grocery store, but it is a sure-fire way to know you are supporting local farmers.
I like to support local farmers by shopping their stands, farm stores or, if possible, a farmers market. There is nothing like in-season produce. Peaches from the grocery store work, but you have to admit, there is something about purchasing peaches, strawberries or sweet corn that you know was grown just yards from the stand or picked in the morning.
Need help finding a local farmers market or roadside stand? Go to: http://www.usdalocalfooddirectories.com/
Charlene Shupp Espenshade, special sections editor