During my years at Extension, one of my (self-proclaimed) missions was to support local farms and producers and to promote consumer-access to, education about, and appreciation for local, fresh, sustainably produced foods and products, while also working to develop farmers’ markets as vibrant gathering places within local communities. That mission continues.
There’s something for everyone at our farmers markets. They’re places to buy local produce, often picked that morning, at a fair price. And many area markets also offer herbs and spices, local grass fed and finished meats, free range chicken and eggs, delicious local maple syrup and honey, homemade baked goods, jams, jellies, cheeses, snack foods, fruit juices, wines and liquors, bedding plants, body- and health-care products, and much more. So before you take that next trip to the grocery store, consider coming out to a nearby farmers market instead. And enjoy the bounty of the season.
We’re fortunate to have such an abundance of locally produced foods, as well as horticultural, health-oriented, and craft products, so readily available to us. And, with market managers working to make sure that there’s a consistent assortment of goods available, you can one-stop shop with confidence, at your local farmers market.
Our independent producers care about the health of their land, their animals, and the quality of the food they sell. After all, they sell what they eat. And, since they sell directly to us, we can shop knowing that we’re accessing the shortest supply chain possible, while helping neighbors and friends grow their small, family-run businesses as they grow our food. We get to meet them, ask questions, provide feedback, and share recipes, gardening tips, and ideas.
In addition, there are local artisans and craftspersons offering their lovely and unique items. If you’re looking for an exceptional gift (e.g. a good bottle of wine, craft beers, beautiful jewelry, masterfully constructed wooden furniture or whimsical hand-crafted knickknacks, custom-made quilts, sweaters, and toques, delicious artisan foodstuffs, books, candles, floral arrangements and centerpieces), a locally made, handicraft purchase is a wonderful option.
Strengthening Local Economies
How and where we choose to spend our hard-earned dollars can actually dictate whether we strengthen our local economies, giving rise to more prosperous communities; or curtail opportunities for small business growth and development, which can only serve to devastate local economies over time. Buying from local small-businesspersons supports homegrown industry and community. It says that we recognize that buying locally, from the little guy, creates an environment where economic development can blossom and grow, and where products are sourced from local farmers, artists, and crafts-makers.
The importance of entrepreneurship and home-based small-business development in stabilizing and revitalizing communities struggling with persistent poverty cannot be overstated. Entrepreneurship fuels economic innovation and prosperity. And small, local businesses are a mark of distinction that adds character to a small town, village, or city, making it more desirable, not only to inhabitants, but to tourists and visitors who benefit from a more interesting and memorable experience, during their stay.
Less Can Be More
This year COVID-19 hasn’t been an issue. But last year, as concerns about the escalating pandemic grew and all non-essential businesses in New York State were directed to close, farmers’ markets were exempted as essential retail businesses and, as such, allowed to open or remain open. Nonetheless, like so many other small-business operators, market growers, gardeners, and managers found themselves rushing to come up with innovative contingency plans to modify their operations and employ solutions that would protect their livelihoods, as well as the health and well-being of their customers, market workers, and the community at large.
Several Adirondack Harvest member-farms took almost-immediate action to initiate online ordering systems and a drive-through pick up service. What emerged was an online marketplace and drive-through farmers market; the Saranac Lake Farmers’ Park-It. It’s a wonderful example of just how creative, resourceful, and resilient our agricultural entrepreneurs and market managers can be.
It also demonstrates how less really can be more. Being locally focused allowed these businesspersons to swiftly respond to an emergency situation and apply creative market-management-practices, without having to completely rethink their business model, reimagine their organizational practices, or rebuild complex supply chains, like those that, at the time, shut down the global food-service sector and prevented farmers, across the country and around the world, from getting their products to market.
Get to Know Adirondack Harvest
Adirondack Harvest is a Cornell Cooperative Extension (CCE) community-based local food and farm promotion-and-development-
This year, their annual Adirondack Harvest Festival is being offered as a Free Range Open Farm Week, with events taking place daily from September 13 through September 19, at locations across New York’s northern tier. More information, including a detailed schedule, can be found online at adirondackharvest.com/festival