Wednesday, October 23, 2013

How To: Talk To A Farmer

This new lifestyle of eating organic, local food can seem a bit daunting - it takes a lot more work than just walking into a grocery store and coming out with neatly packaged foods. But it can be especially scary to introverts, like me, when that means you can't just walk through a grocery store checkout where a couple grunts are satisfactory to accomplish the mission of getting lunch. You mean...I have to talk to people??


Start mentally preparing yourself to crawl out of your caves to interact with your farmers. I promise, you'll be glad you did.

First off, why do you need to talk to your farmer? 

Walking through a farmer's market is often "what you see is what you get." But not always. Developing relationships with your farmers is the best way to find out what they have to offer throughout the year, or get first pick of a limited crop, or get free stuff, or find out ways to invest in their farm to ensure they stay afloat and successful and keep providing your food...etc, etc.

This is my sister, Alexa. She is a farmer, and she's super badass.

Farmers are people, too. 

For whatever reason, our society has looked at the people who provide our food in almost the same way as robots: we go into the grocery store, set all our food on the conveyor belt and we may not even look at the person who is bagging our groceries. Interacting with a farmer brings us back down to planet earth and reminds us that we are dealing with real people. These people work hard to provide us with beautiful vegetables, fruits, dairy, eggs and meat. Unless you've actually worked or volunteered on a farm, you have no idea how much work goes into producing your food. Talk to them and find out all the work that goes into everything. Heck, go volunteer on a Saturday morning to experience it yourself! You'l be much more appreciative of who they are and what they do.

Hi, my name is...

It's your first time at the farmer's market. You check out the scene and walk up to a booth that looks like they have a good variety of things you like. Introduce yourself and tell them what you are looking for. Ask them where they are located. Ask them what they specialize in. Ask them how long they have been farming. Is it a family trade? See, talking to farmers is easy! 

Now get the goods. 

So, are you going to the farmer's market with a dish in mind that you are wanting to make? Or are you looking for inspiration there? Farmers always eat what they grow. Ask them for recipe ideas. Ask them what they make with kohlrabi, or those heirloom potatoes. The only dumb question is the question unasked. They're not going to look at you like you're an idiot if you don't know what that funny looking root is. They'll happily tell you what it is, what it's for, how to cook it, and they'll most likely even give you a sample.

Also, farmers network. If you are looking for a specific item, one farmer may not have it, "But So-And-So Farm has that variety. Here is their number..." If one farmer you are familar with doesn't have what you are looking for, ask if they know of someone else who does. 

Certified Organic? 

This is also a good opportunity to find out the practices and beliefs of those who run the farm. Unfortunately, it is not easy for small farms to get certified organic, due to endless paperwork and fees. So there are many practicing organic farmers that are not certified. Developing relationships with these farmers and investing in their businesses can help them eventually get the certification. And when it comes to animal handling and butchering, farmers who have nothing to hide will tell you exactly how they treat and process animals and what they feed them. 

So, do you feel more confident and prepared? 

Farmers are here to help and serve you. They want you to buy their products and support their business, and they are PASSIONATE about what they do. Don't forget, farmers are like doctors - you need to find the right one for you. Shop around and get to know all the farmers in your area and create a lasting relationship with a few where you will mutually benefit. 

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