Saturday, August 18, 2012

Summer's Bounty - Keep it Local

 My grandparents were farmers who eventually lost the farm to bankruptcy - thankfully after the last of the kids was about to leave home.  My step-dad also served as director for a local food bank for many years.  So I understand the importance the seasons and local buying can play on the ability to provide for a family.  My grandparents always planted a huge garden (still do!) and shared its bounty with the rest of the family and friends who could use it.  We also are fortunate to have a family-owned cider mill nearby.  When the weather was nice we often rode the horses to get some apples and have a donut and cider snack and sit by their pond.  Many friends and neighbors had extra produce they would put out by the road for free or a few quarters and we could provide them with a little extra spending cash while making good use of vegetables and fruit that would otherwise go to rot.
As these family farms were gobbled up by mega-farms and developers, it became more rare to find those who were growing their own food for local consumption.  Over the past 5 years or so, we have seen a resurgence of folks with backyard gardens and vegetable stands, folks who are canning and butchering for their own tables, farm markets popping up in each local community, and small businesses selling locally grown produce and meats.  I feel fortunate that my kids will get to learn these skills and how the food that goes into their bodies gets from the land to their mouths.  As well as how buying the products from our neighbors helps our community stay strong and grow.
When I was on vacation last week, our cider mill had finally opened for the season and I was able to go get my favorite guilty pleasure - their buttermilk cinnamon sugar cake donuts.  I also bought a bushel of sweet corn to freeze and 10 pounds of blueberries to bake with and freeze.  I know that the apples that would normally produce at least 75% of the business for this cider mill are virtually wiped out by the freeze and drought, so were the peaches and cherries.

They are one of the businesses that has remained traditional but worked very hard to modernize where necessary to stay diverse and survive years like this one that may very well close many doors that have been open for generations.  They irrigated their sweet corn and blueberries and despite my fears about availability, these were the best ears of corn I have ever seen and the blueberries were absolutely perfect as well.  As temperatures cool, they will bring in extra dollars with their pumpkins, wine, hayrides, festivals, baked goods, and hosting fall events and weddings.  They'll also have a run of customers looking for unique locally made gifts for Christmas.  They've been working on upgrades to the original buildings to reduce heating/cooling costs and improve efficiency.  I'll be back to get at least a few of the apples they do have (although they won't be offering U-pick this year) and hoping to get some cider while I can.

Another local farm business who often partners with the mill on event sponsorship is a farm that raises sheep, cattle and other meat-based products.  They offer meat, wool goods, cheeses, soaps and basically anything you could make from a meat animal.  They are probably thankful now for the rain we have finally been getting that has restored growth to pastures enough to hopefully get another cut of hay or two and return animals to pasture that have been fed their winter's worth of hay through the summer months.  Grain prices are iffy at best and we are all on pins and needles waiting to see the final analysis once the corn starts getting harvested.
So I hope when you are considering your budget and where to spend your money, that you will consider where that dollar goes after you hand it to the cashier.  If it goes into a local business that turns around and spends it hiring workers who are your neighbors then you have essentially fed both families with that same dollar and improved your community.

1 comment:

Chris said...

Hi April, just stopping by to say how delightful your blog is. Thanks so much for sharing. I have recently found your blog and am now following you, and will visit often. Please stop by my blog and perhaps you would like to follow me also. Have a wonderful day. Hugs, Chris