From getting a CSA to ordering take-out, here are 7 delicious ways you can support local farmers (and your local economy!).
Thank you to Paige’s Produce for sponsoring this post!
If any of us took food for granted before, we don’t anymore.
These days, we’re all spending a lot more time figuring out how to get groceries, planning what food we need, and constantly prepping meals and snacks for everyone at home.
Food has never felt more important. And farmers have never been so important. They may be deemed “essential workers” right now, but they’ve always been essential.
I’ve been lucky over the years to visit a number of different farms–from apple orchards to cattle farms, from organic to conventional operations–and I’ve gotten the chance to talk one-on-one with farmers. Here’s some of what I’ve learned:
- Farmers work harder than anyone I’ve ever met. They’re up before the sun and working long after dark.
- Farmers care deeply about the food they grow and the animals they raise. They have so much pride in what they do and strive to deliver the very best product they can.
- Farmers are up against so much every single day, like droughts and floods, insects and blight, trade wars and political fights. And now, they’re facing closed restaurants and schools, two major industries they supply.
If you’re wondering what you can do to help your community right now, support your local farmers. You’ll be boosting your local economy and nabbing some amazing food in the process. Here are 7 ways to do that:
How to support local farmers
1. Sign up for a CSA
CSA stands for “community supported agriculture”. You sign up for a “share” of what’s produced on the farm each week during the growing season, including vegetables, fruit, and flowers. You pick up your CSA box at the farmer’s market or get home delivery. What you get in your CSA box or bag each week depends on what’s ready or ripe on the farm.
CSAs have a lot of perks for everyone involved: You get ultra-fresh, local food and a chance to get to know the people who grow it (some farms even welcome CSA members for tours). Farmers get a guaranteed source of income early in the season and a direct connection with their customers.
How do you find a CSA? Ask at your favorite farmer’s market booths. Or plug your zip code into this CSA finder from the USDA. Scroll down to learn about the CSA I’m doing this year with Paige’s Produce.
2. Shop at the farmers market.
Communities are taking different approaches with their farmer’s markets. Some may still be holding them, putting social distancing and other measures into place. Some may be switching to pick-up only. Some may postpone or cancel their markets.
But if a farmer’s market is still happening in your community, shopping there can help your local farmer tremendously, as it’s a source of income they rely on to keep their operations going.
While you’re there, practice the same precautions you would at the grocery store, such as:
- Don’t go if you’re sick
- Maintain social distancing (at least six feet from others)
- Shop early if you can to avoid crowds
- Go alone instead of with family members
And follow some commonsense farmers market etiquette while you’re there:
- Be kind and polite to the farmers and helpers, who are working hard (and likely have been up before dawn!)
- Avoid squeezing and handling items yourself and ask the folks at the booth to bag up your choices instead
- Rinse items well before eating. The USDA advises against using soap or other detergents (and please don’t use bleach as some are doing!). Rinse produce well under running water and use a vegetable brush to scrub thick-skinned produce like potatoes or melons.
3. Buy meat in bulk
Like a CSA, buying meat in bulk from local farmers helps them and helps you. I’ve been buying both meat and poultry in bulk for several years, and I love that I always have meat on hand, I know where it came from, and I can support local farmers while stocking my freezer.
Where can you find a farmer who sells meat in bulk? Ask at your local farmer’s market, butcher shop, or University extension office. When you reach out to a farmer, ask when they’ll have meat available. Unlike a grocery store, farmers don’t have meat ready year-round. For example, beef farms may only have calves born once or twice a year, and those animals won’t be ready until the following year. So be prepared to wait for your bulk meat, in some cases several months. Learn all about buying meat in bulk
4. Visit U-Pick Farms
Some farms may still be operating as u-pick, but taking precautions such as limiting the number of people allowed in the field at one time and asking visitors to sanitize hands before picking. Some farms may be nixing u-pick entirely and offering pre-picked fruit for customers. Either way, you’ll go home with delicious, fresh fruit. And while you’re there, you may also be able to buy other items from the farm, like vegetables or jam.
5. Get take-out from a restaurant
Many local restaurants source ingredients from local farms–but farms can’t keep supplying those ingredients if restaurants go out of business. By getting take-out, you’ll support your local restaurants and support local farmers (we do this at least once a week).
The FDA and CDC say there’s no evidence of food or food packaging being associated with virus transmission, but it makes sense to take some commonsense steps: Minimize contact with others outside your home, transfer take-out food to your own plates, discard the packaging, and wash your hands before eating.
6. Tell your friends, neighbors, and family
Encourage people in your life to take part in CSAs too. If you need to buy a gift for someone, consider a CSA or farm box. When school starts back up, pitch the idea of a CSA fundraiser in lieu of selling candy bars or cookie dough (here’s how to get a CSA school fundraiser up and running!).
My CSA This Season with Paige’s Produce
I’m so happy to be partnering with Paige’s Produce this year. They’re a family farm outside of Columbus in Amanda, Ohio, and I’ll be getting their fruit and vegetable CSA this year (and sharing what I get and make on Instagram, so follow me there!).
Paige’s Product is offering pick-up from local farmer’s markets including Clintonville, Upper Arlington, Reynoldsburg, and Pickerington as well as home delivery in the Columbus area (get details about home delivery here).
Interested in learning more or ordering your own CSA from Paige’s Produce? Go here to get all the details on signing up.
The folks at Paige’s Produce pick your items within a day of delivery, so you’re getting the freshest food. Some of their usual CSA items include:
- May – June: Sugar snap peas, English peas, cabbage, bok choi, other Chinese cabbage, lettuces, onions, broccoli, carrots, strawberries
- July – August: Green beans, yellow wax beans, tomatoes, sweet corn, squash, zucchini, cucumber, pickles, eggplant, apples, peaches, pears, blueberries
- August – September: Green beans, apples, turnips, radishes, acorn squash, peppers, cabbage, winter squash, pumpkins, gourds, mums.
You can order full or half shares of vegetables, fruit, flowers, or all three. Full CSA boxes are usually 5-9 items. Half CSA boxes shares are a similar variety and half the portion of a full share.
At the height of the growing season (July/August), here’s what a full vegetable share might look like:
- 1 dozen ears of Sweet corn
- 2-3 quarts of Beans (green, yellow, wax, shell, etc)
- 5-8 Tomatoes (varying types and sizes)
- Several Zucchini
- Pickle cucumbers
- Other items depending on plantings and weather
In the late summer and early autumn, fruit shareholders may receive strawberries, blueberries, peaches, pears, apples, and blackberries.
If you order a flower share, you’ll get a variety of annual flats or hanging baskets in the late spring and mums in the fall from Paige’s greenhouse.
Remember, what you get in any CSA depends on many factors, including growing conditions and weather. This is part of what makes CSAs so unique and gives you such a direct connection to the farm.
Get your own CSA from Paige’s Produce: Go here to get all the details on signing up.