Think about all the items you put in your cart at the supermarket or mega-store. Do you feel you paid a fair price for that product? If you have questions about a particular item, would you know who you could speak to for answers? Where did those potatoes come from, how old is that carton of eggs, and who is being supported by your hard-earned dollars?
Chances are, it would be difficult, if not impossible, to get satisfactory answers to those questions when you buy food at any grocery store. However, when you buy from local farmers, it’s a completely different story.
The following are some reasons why you should support local farmers whenever possible.
Table of contents
Nine Reasons to Support Local Farmers
1. Find lower prices on average from local farmers
With a big family that includes three teenage girls and two preteen boys, keeping everyone fed at my house is certainly a challenge. Just to make a taco dinner usually requires 4 pounds of ground beef to fill everyone’s belly. (Read this post for great ground beef-stretching tips!) With an average retail price of $4.81/lb for ground chuck, that is $19.24 for just one element of one meal! Yikes! One homemade taco dinner could easily total almost $40!
Obviously, the grocery bill could quickly get out of hand if the average meal totaled that high every night. Fortunately for my family, we are able to purchase a half beef every spring for an average cost that is far less than what can be found at the grocery store. Even better, this low cost not only applies to ground beef. We enjoy savings on all wonderful things beef, such as steaks, ribs, and roasts. Honestly, without the benefits of buying from local farmers, my family would be eating a lot of Ramen noodles and five-dollar pizzas.
Buying local, though, isn’t always the cheapest way to go, since they are not factory farms that rely on artificial growth hormones and unnatural living conditions for the animals in order to maximize profits. Call local farmers directly, ask about their livestock, what they are fed, and their prices in order to determine what will best fit your family’s needs and budget.
If the price of a side of beef, for example, seems outrageous, be sure to figure out how many meals will be made from the meat. You may find, like I did, that it really is the best way to go, and the least expensive.
2. Get answers from the food source
Of course, there are many other benefits of buying local foods other than just price. Buying local means I can talk to the farmers about the feed and medicines or antibiotics used for the market beef we purchase. Many facilities will take you back to see where the animal was raised. If I wish, I can speak to the actual human being who was in charge of raising the animal that feeds my family.
Also, information about any pesticides or other chemicals sprayed on my vegetables is also available. Questions about genetic modification can be asked and many farms offer recipe suggestions. Farmers love to discuss their products and they should. They invest hours, days, and months to get their products perfect for purchase!
A good way to talk with several farmers at once is at a farmer’s market. At one I attended, I had the opportunity to chat with a local beef farmer and learned a great deal about how beef is categorized and the challenges he faces raising his cattle. He was a wealth of information that helped me decide what I wanted to buy.
3. Experience more personal satisfaction
In the summer, I can buy local produce and other foods directly from roadside markets. Nothing makes me feel more like a domestic goddess than selecting fruits and vegetables so fresh you have to shake the dirt off. How rewarding it is to rummage through the baskets and bins of products and select ears of fresh sweet corn or the perfect melon! I do not have to worry about another hurried patron with shopping cart road rage pressuring me along.
Additionally, making connections with your local farmers can be a great help for those who want to practice urban off-grid living.
4. Help keep a family tradition alive
From these local produce stands, I often can see the fields of crops being handpicked and brought by the bushel to the small, family-owned stands. The bulk of this mini food system is right in front you to see. Many times, these farms allow you to pick your own produce for an even cheaper rate. Plus, the family farmers are usually on site and although extremely busy, they’re usually willing to answer questions about the fruits of their labor.
By purchasing from local farmers, you help keep tradition alive. Many farmers today are third or fourth generation or even greater! This is a great reason to support local farmers whenever possible because the small, family-owned farm is an endangered lifestyle, and one I want to support when I can.
5. Create memories for your children
The two farms located on each side of the small town where I live have been there for as long as I can remember. I have memories of going to the north farm with my grandma and picking up bushels of cabbage and tomatoes. She would buy one bushel of tomatoes just for the family to eat that afternoon and a couple of others for canning and stewing. When I was younger, I remember sitting under the shade of the big pear tree in the front yard and grabbing tomatoes straight from the bushel. I was eating them like apples with my grandma, aunts, uncles, and cousins. Grandma would also round up the entire family to go pick strawberries from the south side farm. The rest of the afternoon was spent eating them right out of the little green quart containers.
It’s important to take our children to local farms and let them see how the food gets to the table. With the convenience of supermarkets and online shopping, little ones today might not grasp the concept of farming which may be a common mindset to older generations. Ask a farmer to talk to them or even show them around. A farm can be an exciting place with tractors, bright and beautiful colors of the produce, and all the hustle and bustle of the workers planting, sorting, or harvesting.
6. Support the local economy
It’s a rewarding feeling knowing the money you spend in your community stays in your community. Fresh produce at prices often lower than what is found in grocery stores is certainly a perk of shopping local farms. Supporting these local farms is important for the livelihood of our community as well. Both of the farms in our town have been in operation for as long as I can remember and are an important pillar of our local economy. Each farm also provides summer employment to many local teens and adults needing a seasonal job or supplemental income.
Be sure to shop, though, at peak season for the best prices for you, and help farmers get rid of their produce and other agricultural products at just the time they likely have huge harvests to move.
7. Taste the difference
Food grown in its ideal season and picked at the perfect point of ripeness tastes much better than products mass-produced in a greenhouse in the off-season. Of course, this is a matter of opinion, but I am confident that the majority will agree. And then when you taste the freshest food and cook from scratch with it, well, it’s magic!
The one item I can tell a vast difference in taste between prime season and off-season is tomatoes. Nothing is better than fresh tomatoes off the vine. Image those warm, juicy, and flavorful tomatoes sliced for that charbroiled cheeseburger, diced and mixed with fresh basil and extra virgin olive oil for that perfect bruschetta topping, or cut in chunks for that garden fresh salad. Nothing beats tomatoes at their prime.
Personally, I think tomatoes grown in the off-season with manufactured growing processes generally result in a waxy, flavorless tomato-like substitute.
8. Preserve nutritional value
Buying produce from local farmers’ markets and roadside stands generally means you are getting an amazingly fresh product. Oftentimes, produce is picked in the early morning and delivered straight to the stand for sale that same day. When produce is picked at the peak of freshness, the nutritional value is also at its peak. Each day that produce is off the vine, tree, plant, etc., the nutritional value, as well as taste, decreases.
Think about the produce in big markets and find out where it comes from. Grocery stores carry tomatoes from Mexico and bananas from Brazil. Much of our produce comes from afar. Even with today’s sophisticated logistic methods, the produce you buy at chain stores and larger markets could be days old by the time you put it in your cart.
Some industrialized farms harvest produce, like tomatoes, while they are still green so they do not bruise or spoil in transit. Distribution partners then use gas to ripen them for market! Not only is the product picked before it reaches its nutritional peak, but the product itself is not up to par when compared with from field to table product. Nutrition is an important consideration in a holistic view of prepping.
9. Discover more variety
Have you heard about Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) programs? They can be a win-win for both the local economy and your food choices. These programs typically involve a direct partnership between you, the consumer, and the farmers. Members of a CSA pay a “subscription fee” to receive a share of the farm’s produce for a season or a specified period of time. Typically, you’ll pay this upfront for the season, which in turn helps the farmer with their upfront costs.
In return, you receive regular deliveries or pickups of fresh, locally-grown produce directly from the farm. The specific contents of the share may vary depending on the season and the farm. However, it often includes a variety of fruits, vegetables, and sometimes other farm products, such as eggs or honey.
By joining a CSA, you are directly supporting local farmers and their businesses, which helps to stimulate the local economy. Your subscription fee goes towards supporting the farmer’s livelihood, allowing them to continue producing fresh, locally grown food. Plus, CSA programs encourage:
- eating locally,
- a more diverse diet,
- sustainable farming practices, and
- supporting local agriculture.
Oh, and these programs also promote a sense of community, too! Members often have the opportunity to visit the farm, meet the farmers, and learn about the food they are receiving. It’s a mutually beneficial arrangement that fosters a closer connection between consumers and the source of their food.
A Final Thought About Supporting Local Farmers
Small farms across the land are what helped build our nation. Hard-working folks who work 365 days a year growing and raising food the old-fashioned and natural way are finding it hard to keep their farms running. Often the consumer dollar is thrown toward mega-marts and superstores. Why not support local farmers? You can take advantage of the better taste, price, nutritional value, and other intangible gifts of those delicious fruits, veggies, meat, and eggs!
As they say, “On the eighth day, God created the farmer.”
How much do you support local farmers?
Originally published July 10, 2017; updated and revised by Team Survival Mom.