Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Who's Your Farmer?

During the past few years I have come to appreciate the benefits of eating locally produced food when it is in season.  I'm no expert on the politics and logistics of food production, but it's safe to say that food grown close to home is fresher, requires less gasoline to get to your table, and tastes better.  And as a bonus, many small, local farmers don't use chemical sprays or fertilizers, which means a healthier product overall. 

The first thing that got me interested in eating local was the book, Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver.  The second thing that got me hooked was my corner strawberry stand. 

Each spring, strawberry stands pop up all over Shasta County.  I was a little dubious years ago, because, well, they sell strawberries at WinCo....so why make an extra stop?  Well, if you get a fresh strawberry, just picked at peak season, there is no comparison.  None.  These babies are juicy, sweet and melt-in-your-mouth tender.  The crunchy, white-fleshed sorry substitutes they sell at the grocery store are not worthy of the title strawberry as far as I'm concerned. 

These days we buy three pints at a time at our local strawberry stand and go through them in about three days.  This weekend I bought six pints and tossed half in the freezer for smoothies and made a strawberry pie.  I'm in strawberry heaven!! 

This year I started chatting up the farmer at the stand each week when I buy my berries.  I've been going there for years and have never really stopped to talk (mostly because I'm not really a small talker, and because I'm usually hauling kids and I'm rushing back to the car to make sure they don't die from heat stroke).   Turns out my farmer's name is Amy too.  She told me she planted 50,000 strawberry plants this year.  Or maybe it was 15,000.  She's got a bit of an accent so sometimes things get lost in translation.  Either way, she is in charge of a whole lot of berries.  The night before the big Saturday morning farmer's market, she was out in the fields until 11pm picking by the light of her headlamp to ensure she would have enough berries to keep up with demand.

As good as the berries are, there is something even more special about knowing you farmer.  Placing your grocery money directly into the hand of the person that produced your food is a sacred moment.  I consider it a small victory knowing we bypassed the factory farms, transportation companies, oil empires, pesticide producers, and grocery chains.   Product direct to consumer, profit direct to farmer.

Knowing that your produce went from field to table in less than 12 hours is a treat.  A rare treat for most of us, but one that is most definitely worthwhile.  It's worth the extra few cents per pound.  Worth the extra trip to farmers market.  Worth a rogue worm here and there.  Because local food is good food, plain and simple.  

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