Ten Ways to Support Your Local Farmer
Posted: June 3, 2011
There's a lot of talk these days about preserving farmland, saving open spaces, being good stewards of the land, valuing our agrarian heritage. Communities across the country are adopting growth management strategies and open space preservation programs in an effort to save farmland. But as we've heard many times, 'If you want to save the farm, you need to save the farmer.' Sounds good - but how can individual citizens impact the viability of agriculture? There are many things we can each do to help our local farmers. Here are ten ideas to get you started:
1. Buy local from a roadside stand or a farmer's market. You'll get just-picked produce and often some recipe ideas as well. Visit http://www.buylocalpa.org to find markets in your area. That's the website for the PA Sustainable Agriculture Association. Or check out Penn State Extension's Ag Map webpage at http://agmap.psu.edu
2. Join a CSA (community supported agriculture) where you can buy a share of a garden for the whole season and enjoy fresh local produce, often organize, nearly year-round. Some CSA's offer sweat-equity: work in the garden to reduce the cost of your share. Some offer home delivery, but then you'd miss your weekly trip to the farm!
3. Ask for Pennsylvania products, veggies, fruit, dairy, meats, nuts, and wine at your grocery store and favorite restaurants. Look for the "PA Preferred: Simply Delicious, Simply Nutritious" label. Farm-to-Chef programs are also growing in popularity, but they need consumers to support their efforts.
4. Support your local high school kids in Future Farmers of America. Follow their progress in your newspaper. Go to their events, buy their fundraiser items, and make sure your school board knows you think FFA is important.
5. Become a agri-tourist. Visit a corn maze, a winery, or a pick-your-own field. Take the in-laws, take your kids, have a great day int eh country. Check out The Joy of Farm Watching, a pocket-sized travel guide to Pennsylvania agriculture published by Penn State Extension and available at your county Extension office.
6. Wave to farm equipment and be sure to share the road. If farm traffic is slowing you down, look it up in your Joy of Farm Watching and learn the difference between a hay rake and a grain drill. See if you can figure out what's in front of you and to which farm it's heading.
7. Keep up with the latest news. Subscribe to the PA Department of Agriculture's free weekly e-newsletter Inside PDA at http://www.agriculture.state.pa.us It's quick read and also lists upcoming events. You'll amaze your friends and family with your new-found farm savvy.
8. Get smarter about production agriculture in your community. Penn State Extension has a great website http://extension.psu.edu/production-agriculture Click your way to 'Entomology for Kids' or learn about growing Christmas trees or mushrooms.
9. Go to the Pennsylvania Farm Show. Okay, you'll have to wait 'til next January for this one. Start your diet now, so you'll be able to enjoy all the great food. If you've never been, prepare to be overwhelmed. If you're a Farm Show regular, check out an exhibit that you usually skip.
10. Tell a friend. Get your friends and family to jump on the farm wagon. Share your local farm products with them. Take them along on your next agri-tour. Send them great web links. And next time they're muttering at that slow-moving tractor up ahead, explain that it's actually a combine harvester and show them how to smile and wave instead.