Why Support Your Local Farmer
As a Dietitian Nutritionist who chooses to invest the majority of her household’s food budget at the Farmers’ Market, I’ve gotten to know my local farmers. I see them at least once a week. And I talk with them throughout the week.
The more time we share the more I’m convinced they are some of the best people I know!
From my many interactions with my local farmers, I have collected several stories. And with their permission, I’m excited to share my 21 top reasons to support your local farmer!
Thinking about Your Food & Farmer
My local farmers are found at the local Farmers’ Market. I understand that not everyone shops the Farmers’ Market for various reason. And thats’ okay because we all have different schedules, budgets, priorities, responsibilities, and more.
You may not get the reasons for supporting you local farmer, however, I want to get you thinking. For instance…
When was the last time you bought vegetables from the grocery, and the produce worker told you about nutritional benefits of the tomato you picked out?
And upon checking out, when did the cashier give you a few delicious recipes for the foods you where buying.
Also can you think of anytime that when you returned to the grocery, that the meat counter employee approached you to ask you about the quality of your steak you bought last week?
Or did you ever get a message from the grocery store manager just to check in with you, and to send a word of encouragement?
My example above is not intended to down grocery stores and their employees. I continue to shop the grocery, and enjoy my trip to find new foods and products. I’ve made several connections at my local grocery store. However, I can’t say I have a relationship with my grocery store.
On the other hand, I can say that I know my farmers. Plus my farmers know me. They understand my food preferences, food values, and they strive to keep me happy and healthy. This connection is not just with my farmers, but it connects me to my food.
Supporting your local farmer is more than just a tag line. And it is more than a movement to boost the local economy. Building a relationship with people who are in business for your benefit are the people you want to say you know.
Why Buying Food from the Local Farm is Best
Before diving into my 21 top reasons to support your local farmer, I would like to state that as Dietitian Nutritionist I have opportunity of make loads of money by endorsing a variety of food brands. Instead, I choose to advocate for fresh farm foods grown locally.
Local farm foods are optimal in nutrition, and I have seen the powerful ripple effect of eating fresh and local.
For example, the power of good nutrition starts when a person chooses to switch from eating out of boxes and bags to filling his/her plate with fresh farm foods grown locally. This simple choice acts as a catalyst that changes the trajectory of that person’s health, habits, and wellbeing.
These changes begin to write a new food story that impresses upon those in the household, workplace, and social group. Food has a way of binding us together while opening our eyes. Thus, a simple food choice can initiate a wave of influence onto those around you.
Purchasing your food locally creates another wave of impact beyond your health, family, and friends. This wave benefits the local economy. Choosing to keep your dollar within your home region builds a strong, robust local community.
In addition, choosing fresh farm food grown locally allows the natural landscape to stay in the hands of the intentional care of the farmer. Tending the health of the soil reduces our carbon footprint and helps preserve natural resources.
In the end, we are all connected. We are connected to one another and to the Earth. One choice has the ability to impact the world. Eating fresh farm food grown locally is the most delicious! And it’s the best way change your life, those who you hold close, your community, and beyond!
Define Local & Define Farmer
Before we dive into the 21 top reasons to support your local farmer, let’s first define : foods grown local and farmer.
According to the United States Department of Agriculture, there is no legal definition for food grown locally. In fact, the Farm Act of 2008 indicates that food produced and sold within a 400 mile radius or within the same state can be considered ‘local.’ These parameters seem regional not local.
Unfortunately, the same is true for farmer. There are definitions for farm, family farm, and farm operator according to the United States Department of Agriculture. However, the term farmer is consider an occupational term.
Under the Federal Regulations on Labor, a farmer is described as “one who engages, as an occupation, in farming operations….for the purpose of producing a farm crop.”
‘Local Farmer’ Gone Wrong
It is important to understand the term farmer, because many Farmers’ Markets will allow vendors to sell produce, products and meat that are not raised/grown by the vendor. These vendors may dress like a farmer. They may display their goods to appear fresh from the farm. However do not be fooled.
In my Facebook community the Farmers Market Nutritionist, I recently shared about an encounter I once had with a Farmers’ Market vendor. My story when something like this…
“The vendor dressed in farm clothing and appeared to sell farm fresh vegetables. However, when I asked about his farm, he revealed that he drove to a large metropolitan city every week to purchase the produce he was selling from a grocery produce distribution center.”
Local Farmer Defined
Therefore, for the brevity of this article, here are my interpretations for the terms farmer and local…
A farmer is a person who grows produce and/or raises animals. To take it a step further, I choose to purchase my produce from local farmers who practice natural and/or organic farming. I also buy meat and eggs from farmers who practice ethical and natural meat standard.
As for local, the food grown has to be produced and/or raised within the same county or within 50 miles from where you and the farmer reside.
Since the terms farmer and local are up for interpretation, best practices for growing and raising food is also up for debate. Therefore, I make it my business to know the origin my food, know my local farmer, and then support my local farmer.
And I’ve created a free resource – 9 Questions to Ask Your Farmer – to help you know your farmer.
Who are Local Farmers?
Now that I have covered why you want to buy farm fresh food grown locally and defined the local farmer, let’s get into the 21 top reasons to support your local farmer.
When you know someone you see things about them they may not even know. For instance, I have collected several stories from my interactions. And when I tell my farmers how seeing their integrity in action encourages me, they are usually taken by surprise.
Even to write this article I was hungry for more insight from their personal lives. Again I wanted to hear stories that I am not able to see in person or on social media. Several of my farmers wrestled to find examples of how they show up in the world.
I don’t think that the struggle had to do with the fact they aren’t good people, but on the contrary. My farmers are hard working, humble, and some of the best people I’ve ever met. It’s easy to support my local farmers and to appreciate the work they do.
I’m sharing the stories of my farmers so that you can understand why it’s important to support your local farmer. As for you, I encourage you to get close enough to your farmer so to glean similar stories, and to perhaps experience your own joyful connections.
Stories to Illustrate the Local Farmer
Below I’ve organized my stories within character traits : integrity, loyalty, honesty, courage, adventurous, faithfulness, generosity, persistence, leadership, ambition, warrior, self sacrifice, inspire, grit, compassion, and kindness . I also wrapped up my stories with a collection of quotes that I’ve gathered from my farmers.
As you read, you will see why you need to support your local farmer.
Acts of Integrity by the Local Farmer
1. Susan from S&B Bell Farms may have to stay up late Friday evenings to bake goods for the early Saturday morning Farmers’ Market. It would be easier to prepare her baked goods on Thursday or even Friday morning, however freshness and quality are important to her.
Susan states “Friday nights? We get super excited when it’s ‘still Friday’ when we go to bed.
As you know, we both have full time jobs. Plus the regular farm duties still have to be done. Friday’s include pork and mushroom pickup, microgreens harvest and packing, and then also all the baking and packing for the Bakery.”
Doing the right thing when no one else knows is an amazing example of integrity, thus it’s easy to see why you want to support your local farmer.
2. “Some of the characteristics of Living Water Ranch [are to] maintain a good name. We strive to maintain a good name, even when we know we are in the right and ‘they’ are wrong.”
Jonathon continued “that doesn’t mean the ‘customer is always right,’ but rather even if they are wrong, we still validate their concern or opinion and change what we can on our end to ensure this matter doesn’t repeat itself.”
Honesty On & Off the Farm
3. John and Jessica Hodge of Modern Heritage Farm provide a Community Supports Agriculture, or CSA basket to several customers on a weekly basis. Last summer, they experienced devastation when pesticide residue from a neighboring farm ruined several crops.
The pesticide residue could have been washed off, however the Hodges remained true their commitment to provide organically grown produce to their customers. Because of this mishap, the Hodges dug into their own reserves so to provide food to their weekly customers.
Later the Hodges made the decision to halt the weekly CSA basket for a few weeks so to recover from the accident. And to stay true to their mission and customers, they extended their weekly CSA baskets for an additional month after their growing season was suppose to come to a close.
Because the Hodges are deeply rooted in honesty and their mission, it’s easy to see why you need to support your local farmer.
A Story that tell of the Loyalty of the Local Farmer
4. Susan from S&B Bells Farms baked up a special batch of cookies in the summer of 2020 to celebrate a big milestone for a young customer. Hailey, age 8, had been working towards virtual 1000K mile challenge.
When Hailey completed her goal, Susan reached out to Hailey’s mother so to create a special cookie recipe to celebrate her huge accomplishment. And this is how Hailey’s 1000K Chocolate Chip Cookies were born!
The Courage of the Local Farmer
5. Sara from Goodin’s Garden states she is “always transparent about the farm, growing practices, canning practices, [and] happy to show anyone anything about our farm, our animals [and] kitchen.”
Sara goes on to say “it takes a lot of courage to be a new farmer. You are opening up your farm to public opinion and there is a sharp learning curve on planting for the market. [Plus] anytime we bring a new product to the market, we are vulnerable to public opinion.”
Sara specializes in canned goods, vegetables and eggs. I have often suggested that the world at large needs to have a taste of Sara’s gift for combining flavors for her delicious jams, jellies, sauces and more.
She understands that it takes vulnerability to bring a new canned product into existence. And even if she has to test kitchen the new product a few times or have a handful of friends and family taste test, she is not afraid to create a new flavor combination or home-canned product.
Sara is working towards building a commercial kitchen so that her products can be get into the hands of more consumers. Until this occurs, continue to support your local farmer so that they can continue to grow and serve more people.
Adventurous Local Farmers
6. John and Jessica Hodge with Modern Heritage Farm were one of the first farmers to offer organically grown produce at my local Farmers’ Market. In addition, they are also one of the first to start a Community Supports Agriculture, or CSA weekly box within the area.
Along with the CSA subscription, customers also receive recipe and nutrition support within a private Facebook group. Again first of it’s kind around here.
John and Jessica aren’t afraid of the challenges that come with business. Moreover, they are focused on pursuing their passion for caring for the earth with organic growing practices and helping people become healthier one vegetable at a time.
Local Farmers & Faithfulness
7. When the pandemic hit in March 2020 almost everything stopped. However the farmers at my local Farmers’ Market did not! They continued to provide farm fresh food to their community, plus they added additional safe guards.
For example, the Farmers’ Market manager at that time provided hand sanitizer stations, encouraged customers to wear masks, and established markings on the pavement to ensure social distancing.
The farmers also stepped up to build websites to allow for pre-ordering and no contact pick-up options. Lesley from Solway Farms also started to make deliveries to autoimmune compromised customers during quarantine so to protect them from the virus.
The faithfulness of the local farmer gave comfort during a scary, uncertain time.
The Generosity of the Local Farmer
8. Food donations to Feeding America and other food banks are provided by the farmers when there are leftovers from market days. These farms include : Hinton’s Farm Market, Larry & Becky’s Farm – Sweet Corn, Solway Farms.
I also discovered that when quarantine started, Lesley from Solway Farms began to donate fresh greens to the staff at the local hospital. She continued her donations for several weeks.
When you support your local farmer, it makes it possible for them to help the community in good and bad times.
9. Susan from S&B Bell Farms shared that “last week a farmer was bailing hay. His brand new tractor caught on fire, and he was unable to disconnect the baler. Freshly cut hay was on the ground, and all his equipment was literally destroyed.”
Another farming family who hear about the incident choose to bring “their equipment to [his] farm to bale hay…instead of baling their own hay…they went and did all of his so that at least he wouldn’t lose the total crop.”
Stories that Tell of the Persistence of the Local Farmer
10. “2020 as a market and growing season was a test in persistence. We kept going and got Best in Kentucky through a late May freeze, a pandemic, and completely new practices.” said Sara of Goodin’s Garden
Choosing to support your local farmer will help build resilience within the community. We are all connected, and I believe my farmers work a little harder during the tough times because they know I’m counting on them.
11. For brand recognition, Living Water Ranch sets a high flying flag beside the main road, as well as, an eye catching chalkboard by their table. It’s an easy way to spot my local beef farmer.
Jonathon of Living Water Ranch states that “Many have applauded the artwork on the chalkboards that they see at the Farmers’ Market.” Nana B., Jonathon’s Mother, creates a new chalkboard design for each market.
Jonathon continues to say “though she enjoys doing them, she diligently stick at it until they are done…even if it means staying up to 2am working on them only to get back up at 4am to get ready for the Market.”
“Just because the sun goes down doesn’t mean the day is done if there’s still work that needs to be finished.”
Local Farmers & Leadership
12. John Thomas and Jessica from Modern Heritage Farm shared how farming is a “calling to steward the land.” They explained “we noticed the increase of life under our feet and all around us.”
“This has shown us just how strong a connection have with all creation…the longer we farm and focus on regenerative practices, rather than simply sustainability, the more we can see and understand the symbiotic relationships that were designed in creation…[this] continually inspires us.”
As mentioned previously, the Hodges were one of the first to offer organically grown produce and start a weekly CSA program in the area. In addition to farming and business practices, John and Jessica add to their farm each year not for profit alone but to further the care for the land.
Sara from Goodin’s Garden also adds that when it comes to leadership John and Jessica…”never stop.”
Ambition of the Local Farmer
13. Lesley with Solway Farms started something new for her and to the area in the winter of 2020-2021. She continued to provide vegetables throughout the winter months to her customers.
To start this new venture, Lesley leveraged the ordering system through her website. And despite the lack of a formal winter market, you could find her every Saturday at the market meeting space from 9-11AM for pick up.
After pick up hours, Lesley would start her rounds for delivery to those with a compromise immune system, the elderly, or sick. Lesley was also the first in our area to start home delivery of farm fresh produce to her customers.
The ambition of one lead to benefit of many! Plus, it’s a wonderful thing to support your local farmer year round!
The Local Farmer is a Warrior
14. Jonathon of Living Water Ranch is a veteran of the US military, but he continues to serve through his passion of raising beef cattle and connecting with customers.
Jonathon shares “there are a couple of things that are important…educate the public, the next generation, or the unsuspecting consumer of the benefits of eating a locally produced product.” He understands that locally grown food is the best for you, your family, and beyond.
Similar to a soldier, the farmer is also a warrior with a mission to improve the world. However, the farmer is armed with education to overcome. To support you local farmer means that you too are on a mission for the greater good!
Self Sacrifice of the Local Farmer
15. As mentioned Sara from Goodin’s Garden is a master at canned jellies, jams, sauces, and more. The small sized jars of jellies make a perfect gift for friends and family. Last Christmas season I order 20 tiny jellies, however Sara didn’t have 20.
Sara works full time and has a family, however she gave up a few weekday nights to complete my order. She states “I seem to sacrifice a lot of evening and weekends to canning, but it doesn’t feel like a sacrifice.”
16. Also previously mentioned, Brain and Susan of S&B Bell Farms pick up pork from Cedar Valley Farms and mushrooms from Prayer Mountain Mushrooms each week so to sell at the Saturday market.
When I asked Susan why she goes to the trouble of taking mushroom orders on top of her already busy preorder sales, she explained that she is happy to partner with these other farms.
She feels good about helping out a fellow farmer and bringing another healthy option to our community. I was moved that S&B Bell Farms would go out of their way to not just help another farmer, but to also put our community’s health top priority.
When you support your local farmer, you are supporting the farming community at large. Your dollars are votes for your farmer and the industry of small locally operated farms.
Local Farmers Inspire
17. Lesley of Solway Farms is a native of Hardin County but moved to Bowling Green during college and early adulthood years. She had made a new life and career in agriculture, but upon returning to Hardin County she was unsure about how to re-establish a career in farming.
Lesley’s new chapter started when she met John Thomas and Jessica Hodge with Modern Heritage Farm at the market. The Hodges inspired Lesley to start her farm. Then they offered to help!
The Hodges met with Lesley on her land and literally hands-on helped her get rooted as a local farmer!
Lesley is now growing and selling delicious, nutritious food every week at the Farmers’ Market. She has also used her business to give back to the community and has found new ways to bring locally grown farm fresh foods to customers.
The True Grit of the Local Farmer
18. Jonathon with Living Water Ranch literally went the extra mile in 2020 when it came to finding a processor for his beef cattle. During the start of the pandemic, meat processing became limited and difficult to find.
Therefore, Jonathon reported “last year we took cows to processing five times.” And before he took his cows for processing he “went to several to visit with the processor, interview them, review their process, etc.”
He continued “we ended up talking to over 80 processors to establish the basics before driving out to their location to set our eyes on their operation.”
Jonathon always asks “‘Are you a USDA processor so that we can resell beef cuts?'” He specifies because federally approved facilities require higher standards.
He also visits the facility to so see the policies, procedures and cleanliness. Jonathon states “I am looking for someone who respects the animal and one who realizes the life they are taking.”
“At our favorite processor, they process one cow through before they start the next cow. That means that my cow is my cow and it doesn’t get mixed up with someone else’s. This type of control in important to us as we work hard to produce the best beef around and we don’t want it mixed up with someone else’s beef.”
“So qualities” he continued, “Respect, Humane treatment, of the animals, cleanliness, even hygiene of the workers are things we are looking for. In addition to that, I am looking for consistency and the ability of the processor to follow instructions.”
“For instance, I need my steaks 1.5’ thick across the whole thing. Not 1.75’ on my side and 0.75’ on the opposite. This would result in a steak being raw on on end and dried out and tough on the other end.”
When the cutting didn’t go as specified, Jonathon “pulled product from the freezers that just didn’t ‘look’ right like our brats…[the processor] wouldn’t place the four sausage links in a neat manner. Or patties that are squished, balled up…I pull those products and refuse to sell them.”
“For us, the name of the game is quality…there is a lot more that goes int our beef, a lot more. Not only do we care how the cow lives its life, we also care how it transition from the farm to our plates and each in between.”
Jonathon finished by sharing that he drove a minimum of 1087 miles last season just to find the right processor who met his high standards. To understand why Jonathon goes the extra mile, it’s easy to see that he is leader when it comes to grit.
Compassion between the Local Farmers
19. When the vendors of my local Farmers’ Market experience a loss, they come together.
Susan from S&B Bells Farms told me “pre-covid when [a fellow vendor] Mr. Brangers passed…his family came to market, and brought a cake to celebrate his life with all of us.”
Susan continued, “And in the middle of covid…everything was socially distant…most of the support and coming together was via email [during the loss of another fellow vendor].”
She had hoped for a more intimate time to connect with the family but still made offering support a priority, even if it was virtual support.
Sara Goodin of Goodin’s Garden told me “Susan from S&B Bell Farms is always checking in and shows a high level of caring and compassion for other vendors, customers, and animals.”
Compassion from the Local Farmer
20. Lesley from Solway Farms sends encouraging messages, helpful resources, and checks in with her customers weekly. I have received some of Lesley messages during times when I was feeling low. It’s crazy how the simple act of reaching out has helped my mental well-being.
Others also feel the same about Lesley’s weekly check-ins. Also Lesley is always happy to see me and her customers at the market whether we buy or not. She is a genuine person, and you can feel that she cares.
It’s been said ‘what you reap is what you sow.’ And this is true when it comes to Lesley and my other local farmers. When you support your local farmer, they will support you in ways that will take your heart and mind by surprise.
Acts of Kindness of the Local Farmer
21. Jonathon of Living Water Ranch shared he “believes that a happy, healthly cow helps to ensure a happy, healthy person.
“It’s all part of the solution…taking special precautions to keep raised voices, clanging gates, and other loud noises to minimum, every precaution is taken to ensure a peaceful and serene life for the cows.”
Jonathon goes on the say “we’ve rescued cows from [poor living] situations. It is our hope to give the ‘girls’ (or cows) the best life we can…we’ve purchased cows who would otherwise be sentenced to a lifelong…short as it may be…existence surrounded by harsh living conditions.”
Acts of kindness make a difference in all the lives on the farm and beyond!
Quotes of the Local Farmer
Now that I’ve drawn a picture for you to see the local farmer in action, I also want to share some of their words. Words are powerful, and have to ability to change life itself! So here are 9 quotes to encourage you to support your local farmer.
“I feel like everyone down at the market is doing the right thing even when no one is looking.”
“Farming is about family for us.”
Jonathon of Living Water Ranch
“For us, integrity is more than just being honest and exhibiting our strong moral principles, it’s about be consistent through and through.”
“I was raised that good name is better to be had than wealth and fortune.”
“If we advertise a price and realize our math was off, we honor the price that serves the customer the best.”
“Our mission is to be better stewards of the land, raise our children on a farm, and connect to members of the local community to fresh wholesome food.”
“Eat Well. Be Well.”
Jessica of Modern Heritage Farm
“We believe healthy soil = healthy plants = healthy people.”
“ S&B started out with a purely functional purple: to make good use of land that we own.”
Three Final Words :Accountability in Motion
Usually when someone shares a story, it could be considered gossip. Think of the stories above as good gossip. You weren’t around to witness for yourself, so you’re taking me at my word to make a judgement about the local farmer.
Moreover, the stories shared above are not a means of passing along words to entertain and educate. They are shared so to illustrate the goodness of my local farmers. I wanted to convey these stories so that you have reason to support your local farmer.
I have one last reason to support your local farmer, and it is accountability. Accountability is a character trait, however it didn’t make my list or reasons because for my local farmers, it is standard.
Sara from Goodin’s Garden shares that “as a market (of local farmers), we are all here for one another, but we each hold each other to a high standard to maintain as a producer only and best in Kentucky market.”
This is the kind of standard, as well as, accountability that needs to spread and has the power that makes us all better. Your local farmer and markets may be made up of different people, yet I bet they share similar characteristics and stories.
I encourage you to learn about your farmer. And to find your own reasons to support your local farmer. You will be better for doing it!
About the Author
Elizabeth Ray is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist who is on a mission to help you feel good about food! She believes food from the farm is best. And she is developing nutrition resources to help you discover the possibilities of real food that is grown/raised by the local farmer.
For more delicious, nutritious and adventurous recipes that are sourced from the farm, click here.
“May food from the local farm help you flourish!” – Elizabeth Ray Farmers Market Nutritionist