Giving Thanks for Local Agriculture
Tis the month and the week for being thankful. Although I try to cultivate gratefulness all year round, I think Thanksgiving is a particularly good time to be thankful for specific things. I could make a list the length of my arm for general things I’m thankful for – my husband, family, friends, good food – but that doesn’t get into details. That long list doesn’t explain why I’m thankful for each one of those things. So today, I’m going to break down a number of reasons why I’m thankful for one particular, simple thing: my local farmers’ market. This past weekend was the last one for the season, so it’s a good time to think about why I’m glad it’s around the rest of the year.
1) It supports local small farmers, obviously. Supporting local farmers strengthens the local economy, reduces corporate control over the food system, and is generally more environmentally sustainable than large-scale agriculture.
2) It provides a place for a variety of local businesses to sell their goods. On the food-based agricultural side, we have a naturally certified vegetable farm, several orchards, meat/dairy providers, and a couple of conventional vegetable farms. On the production side, we have a number of bakeries, a local sausage maker, and a fishmonger. We even have two nurseries that provide local flowers and seedlings for gardens.
3) It’s within walking distance. The farmers’ market is only a mile away, so most days we walk. If I’m by myself and want to carry a lot, I can stick my grocery bag on my bike.
4) It showcases the diversity of our agricultural community. The farmers and businesspeople who sell their goods range in age and seemingly, background. We have two sets of farms that come from the Pennsylvania Mennonite community. Another farm is run by a Hispanic family that involves their kids. The younger brother mainly seems to bother his sister in mildly amusing ways, but she always seems eager to help out.
5) During the spring and summer, the Rockville Bicycle Advisory Committee has a tent where we hand out bike maps and information about our rides. We usually have a bike mechanic from a nearby shop who offers mini tune-ups.
6) The local food bank, Manna Food Center, has a booth to accept fresh produce. Food banks always need fresh produce but most food drives can’t collect it for obvious storage reasons. While I would never remember to drop it off at their office, I always buy a little extra at the market and drop it in their basket.
7) It has a sister market on Wednesdays in our Town Square. Although I’m in downtown D.C. then, I’m glad that people who might not come out on Saturday market can happen upon it during their lunch break.
8) Because of a new state program, all of the farmers at the market now accept EBT (electronic benefit transfers, which largely replace food stamps). The City even matches up to $10 in purchases of produce, meat, cheese, dairy and bread. While it would be even better if the county or state set up a complete matching program, $10 is nothing to sneeze at! I’m glad that this helps everyone have some access to the farmers’ market, regardless of their income.
9) It has provided me with a large amount of tasty food over the last few years, especially when my garden has failed to. I’m looking forward to making apples and sweet potatoes this week with our latest haul.
Those are just a few of the reasons I’m grateful for my local farmers’ market. I hope that next time I say “thank you” to a farmer I’m buying from, they realize that I’m not just being polite and how much I really mean it.
What are you thankful for this season?