KNOW YOUR GARDENER
In this part of the world, you see the fields of corn and soybeans, observe the growth, comment on the need for rain, and join in the anticipation of a good harvest. You somehow feel connected to the farmers as you watch the fields they attend and recognize their business as a big part of the local economy. A portion of this harvest feeds the animals you consume as meat but most of the crop has many other uses than supplying you with food. However, the same soil, air, water, and energy from the sun supply the food at your table. Some effort is needed on your part to connect the food you eat every day with a farmer or gardener.
Those of you who raise vegetables in your gardens, or have a friend or neighbor who does, get to know a gardener. Seldom do you get to meet a gardener at the grocery store. You can get to know gardeners and the source of your produce when you take advantage of local farmers’ markets and other sources of locally grown foods. You can learn all about local foods around the country at Local Harvest. There you can locate by zip code options available to you to get acquainted with producers of food grown locally – including information about what is available and farm sites to visit. Just browse www.localharvest.org.
A local initiative, the Northwest Illinois Local Foods Task Force, is launching “an ongoing initiative that will help increase consumers’ awareness of foods that are produced locally and available from restaurants, caterers, and retailers throughout the county, identifying these foods will be easier due to a new symbol that sellers can use to mark fresh produce, packaged foods, and menu items.” Find out more at www.web.extension.illinois.edu and search: Northwest Illinois Foods Task Force.
Margaret Larson, director, University of Illinois Extension – Stephenson County, and member of the Local Foods Task Force, lists several reasons to support local foods:
- “Enjoy exceptional taste – Local food is fresher and locally grown varieties tend to be bred for taste and freshness, rather than shipping and shelf life.
- “Strenthen the economy – Buying local keeps dollars circulating in the community.
- “Support local farms – Local food is often sold directly by the farmer, allowing the grower to keep more of the profit.
- “Encourage health and safety – Increasing your intake of fruits, vegetables, and wholesome dairy products is good for your health. Plus, knowing where your food comes from and how it is grown allows you to support a safe food supply.
- “Protect the environment – Less reliance on shipping foods a long distance reduces carbon dioxide emissions and packing material. It also helps make farmland more profitable and sustainable.”
Visit a farmer/gardener at a local farmer’s market. You’ll be glad you did.
Della Moen, Earth Team Volunteer, NRCS/Stephenson Soil and Water Conservation District, an equal opportunity provider and employer, 06/20/12 (for publication on 06/23/12 in the Journal- Standard, Freeport, Illinois) Della can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org