Monday, July 15, 2019

Adirondack Harvest: Farmers Markets Support Local Growers

Saranac Lake Village Farmers Market courtesy Regional Office of Sustainable TourismFarmers Markets (marketplaces where people gather to buy and trade goods and services, exchange news, and share stories with one another) can be traced back 5000-years, to Egyptian villages and towns along the Nile.

They have deep roots in American history too; enduring as a part of our society, business, and trade since 1634, when the first Farmers’ Market in the ‘New World’ opened for business in Boston, Massachusetts. Throughout much of the 17th, 18th, and 19th centuries, outdoor marketplaces remained vital centers of commerce in both American cities and rural communities.

The Central Market, in Lancaster Pennsylvania, has been held in the same location since 1730. During the 1790s, George Washington wrote about sending his kitchen staff to shop at Philadelphia’s outdoor market. And Thomas Jefferson wrote, in 1806, about buying beef, eggs, and vegetables at an outdoor market in Georgetown.

During the 20th century, however, as more and better roads were built nationwide and more-modern methods of refrigeration were developed and applied, it became possible to transport produce from large commercial farms to centers hundreds; even thousands of miles away. Wholesalers took advantage of opportunities to place fruit and vegetables produced by large commercial and corporate growers into neighborhood supermarkets and chain and convenience stores, all owned by even-larger corporations. A global, industrialized-food-system emerged, significantly changing the way we eat and our relationship to where food comes from. Small farmers found themselves less and less able to compete and local markets all but disappeared.

But in the 1960s and 70s, probably due at least in part to the Back-to-the-Land Movement (a North American counter-cultural, social phenomenon which gave preference to self-sufficiency and local food-production) and growing concerns about food safety, energy consumption, and the negative impacts of the global industrial-food-system on our environment and local economies, interest in locally-produced food steadily increased and Farmers’ Markets began making a comeback. That interest continues to grow, with Farmers’ Markets realizing increasing popularity in all 50 states.

If you’re looking for ways to eat fresh and stretch your food dollars, look no further than your local Adirondack Harvest Farmers Market. Stop in and select from the finest, the freshest, and the best local produce that money can buy; much of it all-naturally grown.

Adirondack Harvest is a Cornell Cooperative Extension (CCE) community-based local food and farm promotion-and-development-program with a strong commitment to small-scale, sustainable farming, and a focus on developing and expanding markets for local farm-fresh products. Years of effort by CCE Educators across northern NY have resulted in the development of more than 50 local-community-based Adirondack Harvest Farmers’ Markets, now in full-swing at convenient locations in every northern New York County.

You’ll find fresh-picked vegetables, fruits, herbs and spices, homemade baked goods, local grass-fed and finished meats, free-range chicken and eggs, jams and jellies, cheeses, maple syrup, honey, snack foods, fruit juices, teas, wines and liquors, bedding plants, body-care products, and much more. Market locations and days and hours of operation can be found online.

When you shop at Adirondack Harvest Farmers’ Markets, everybody wins. Participating Market venders are your neighbors. They’re small-farm-managers and family members who greatly appreciate your support. You’ll enjoy meeting and talking with them. And getting closer to the source of the food you’re buying.

Member-farmers often select plant varieties and animal breeds specifically for their superior quality and flavor. And locally grown and prepared foods are more nutritious and much better-tasting than fruits and vegetables that are picked before they’re ripe and then transported across the continent or halfway around the world.

Through initiatives like Adirondack Harvest, CCE encourages consumers to support sustainable, local, small-scale agricultural-entrepreneurism and, in doing so, help safeguard our agricultural land and heritage, improve our quality of life, and strengthen our rural economies. CCE invites growers and consumers to explore and anticipate how the decisions they make today might affect the future, and then make choices that are equitable, economically and ecologically sound, and that promote responsibility and pride, strong, sustainable community development, and environments where economic development opportunities can flourish.

CCE educators and Adirondack Harvest coordinators and farmers recognize that the goal of improved agricultural-economic- and-community-development is best served when all stakeholders in the food-system join forces. They welcome and appreciate participation in farm-to-retail, farm-to-foodservice, and farm-to-institution programs, which cut out the middlemen and make fresher, healthier food available to stores, restaurants, schools, hospitals, homes, etc.

CCE encourages everyone to buy local, to communicate with and learn about the agricultural practices of your farming neighbors, and to advocate for farm-friendly regulations in your community.

A comprehensive list of where to buy locally-grown and produced foods at the farm gate is available from your county Cornell Cooperative Extension office.

Photo of Saranac Lake Village Farmers Market courtesy Regional Office of Sustainable Tourism.

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Richard Gast is a retired Extension Program Educator and has been contracted by Cornell Cooperative Extension Franklin County to continue his informative and thought provoking articles.

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