The Star-Herald

Keep farmers closer

T-shirts, like bumper stickers, shrink-wrap extensive concepts into short, pithy slogans.  Frequently, you can make your views known and discover kindred spirits just by watching the faces of passers-by who read your chest.  A smile indicates that you have made your point; a comment initiates an interesting conversation with a former stranger.

Members of the Presque Isle Farmers Market at Riverside gather on Saturday mornings at the Riverside Pavilion to sell their fruits, vegetables and meat to local customers.  They wholeheartedly agree with the T-shirt sentiment declaring, “Keep your friends close. Keep your farmers closer. Eat local.”

Taking advantage of local farmers’ markets, farm stands, community gardens and school farm programs makes so much sense.  Customers gain in multiple ways. Firstly, they are getting their foodstuffs at the peak of freshness and flavor. When patrons rave about their experiences consuming produce picked or gathered the day of the Market compared to purchases they have made in the past through conventional sources, we smile and say, “Thank you.  I am glad you enjoyed it.” What we may be thinking is, “Well, yeah. I eat them too, and for the same reason.” Fresh, locally grown feedstuffs taste so much better and in many cases, are much better for you.

Secondly, although our global pollution problem looks too big for any individual to tackle, a local customer supporting a local farmer is reducing his or her carbon footprint.  For many PIFM vendors, there are no high-enthalpy factory burning fossil fuels to capture nitrogen as fertilizer salts for their fields. There is no boat sailing or airplane flying to far-flung destinations to ship in foreign-born radishes or tomatoes.  There is no ethylene gas involved in trying to make a fruit appear fully ripe but not spoiled, even when both those characteristics may or may not be true. There is no grain-based feedlot force-feeding added poundage to incarcerated livestock jammed cheek to jowl into concrete enclosures.  Buying food locally and in season is one way a consumer can shop responsibly in response to the climate change threat.

Thirdly, the consumer is not dependent on a slick marketing program to make up his or her minds about what to buy.  Signage at The Market leans toward whiteboards and markers with maybe a hand-drawn poster or sign, announcing the presence and prices of the goods for sale by an individual from the local farming community. Our customers can make well-informed decisions about what they buy because we are happy to respond to their questions and comments.   

Further information, whether it is growing practices, pest management, source of seeds, varieties and their purposes, or cooking instructions, is available “straight from the horse’s mouth.”  Informed shoppers can vote with their feet, effectively encouraging best practices in their own communities.

Finally (and maybe best of all), we care about our customers and they care about us. Local farmers like it when we are “kept closer” by people who chose to support local agriculture.  Please stop by.

The Presque Isle Farmers’ Market president for the 2018 season is Deena Albert-Parks of Chops Ahoy Farm in Woodland. For information about participating or visiting the market, contact her at hoctrainer@aol.com.

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