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Pay it local

In Ball State University’s Down to Earth documentary about sustainable food systems, renegade farmer Joel Salatin makes a key point about the importance of spending food dollars locally. A small amount of cash spent at the farmers market or local food store might make a huge difference to the vendors there. You never know what kind of difficulties they face, and where they stand on the thin line between a manageable load and giving up.

It’s kind of like paying it forward, only you’re “paying it local.”

Freedom Valley Farm's high tunnel beds.

Freedom Valley Farm’s high tunnel beds.

It reminded me of something I blogged some months back:

The row we plant might be just the encouragement our elderly neighbor needs to start seeds on a windowsill. Which might nudge her granddaughter to visit a farmers market and buy a farmer’s tomatoes, and one of those funny-looking squashes while she’s at it. Maybe she’ll come back in ensuing weeks and bring her children and a friend, buying more locally grown food. Which shows the farmer that his produce is desired, and keeps him from throwing in the towel after a tough summer.

Since I wrote that I’ve talked to many small farmers as part of my freelancing job, and I’ve learned that farming is more difficult than any nonfarmer could ever imagine. What they do requires a lot of faith. And people to buy what they’re selling.

When I interviewed Hoosier Organic Marketing Education (HOME) founder Cissy Bowman for a Farm Indiana story, she emphasized the critical role of the nonfarmer ally. “Never feel disempowered,” she told me. “As a consumer your opinion is the most important, because you’re the one who buys it.”

Our consumer choice is not even just about food. It’s also about keeping land out of developers’ hands. If farmers can earn a living wage, fewer properties will be snatched up and turned into subdivisions and shopping malls. That means more acreage for wildlife, native plants, and pollinators.

From the front page of Farm Indiana

From the front page of Farm Indiana

The current issue of Farm Indiana contains two stories I wrote. One is about Cissy and HOME, a terrific nonprofit organization that helps farmers like Anna Welch with rural development projects and educates everyone about the importance of organics. The other is about Freedom Valley Farm, an Owen County operation that I thoroughly enjoyed visiting.

Jim Baughman showed me around his farm on a February day.

Jim Baughman showed me around his farm on a February day.

I can testify that Jim’s winter produce is among the best I’ve tasted. We’re talking melt-in-your-mouth spinach and juicy-crisp carrots. This guy is good at what he does, and he does it all without chemicals.

To read the stories, click here.

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