Spring has arrived in Indiana! Every season arrives with its own unique features that seem brand new year after year. Longer days, powerful thunderstorms, colorful blooms and plenty of pollen signal the arrival of spring. Another spring staple in so many Indiana communities is a farmer’s market, farm stands and u-pick farms full of locally grown produce.
Buying from local farms and growers helps boost the local economy. Additionally, consumers are paying more and more attention to the food they purchase and how it is produced, making locally sourced goods even more appealing. Consumers may ask questions of local producers such as:
What sprays, pesticides and herbicides do you use on your farm? Some markets have certain guidelines and rules regarding the chemicals their vendors are permitted to use, but not all of them do. If this is a concern for you, ask!
What farming practices do you utilize that contribute to the health of the soil? Do you use any type of tillage? What does your crop rotation look like? Do you utilize cover crops? Fruits and vegetables get their nutrients from the soil, so it makes sense to ask for information about the health of that soil and its ability to provide those nutrients. Healthy, fertile soil is its own ecosystem full of microorganisms that work together to provide nutrient rich material to growing plans. Monocropping, tillage and leaving the soil bare over the off season all affect the soil’s ability to function at an optimum level. As soil quality declines, so too does the nutritional value of the crop produced on it. Checking in with your producer about sustainable farming practices that contribute to long-term soil health is important.
What type of crops do you grow? Checking in with your producer about what type of crops are grown provides information about their crop rotation methods, giving an indication of whether they are supporting soil fertility and health. Different crops require different nutrients. Crop rotation allows the soil to rest and replenish from one crop to the next.
For animal products: How are the animals housed and treated? What are they fed? How do you ensure their health? If you buy and consume animal products, these are certainly questions you’ll want to ask the producer.
May I visit your farm? Farmers are hard workers who are extremely proud of what they do. Most will welcome a chance to show it off to an interested consumer. Don’t show up unannounced, but do schedule a visit to see firsthand what goes into the food we consume.
While things may look a little different than we are used to this year, fresh produce is still out there, as is the demand for it! With all of us working together, producers and consumers, we can all enjoy the fruits of the producer’s labor. June is National Fresh Fruit and Vegetables Month. Search for local markets in your area and add some color to your plate while supporting one of the most important essential businesses: your local farmer!
Sheila Schroeder CCSI Northern Program Manager