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Growing relationships: Farmers and consumers are finding new ways to connect Print
Editorial
Written by Mary C. Uhler   
Thursday, Apr. 19, 2012 -- 12:00 AM

Editor's View by Mary C. Uhler

When I was growing up, my dad (a teacher who had summers off) always planted a large vegetable garden.

As his tomatoes, beets, carrots, and other vegetables multiplied, he would often take pails of produce around the neighborhood as gifts to other families. I helped with planting and weeding, although my main role was taking care of the flowers decorating the garden.

Enjoyment of gardening

Ever since then, I’ve always enjoyed gardening. Being outdoors with the smell of dirt (to me it smells good) and the bees buzzing gives me a sense of calm and peace.

When our children were young, we, too, had a vegetable garden. However, it got to be too much work to keep up with the weeding and harvesting — plus two of our neighbors had gardens and liked to share their produce with us. We decided to give up the vegetables, but we still have flowers and maintain our fairly large yard.

Our kids always had plenty of fresh vegetables, and to this day they like vegetables of most kinds. We used to grow brussels spouts, for example, and other people would marvel at the fact that our children ate them and other vegetables without needing any parental encouragement!

I think children will eat most kinds of food if that’s what is part of their regular diet. Unfortunately, some parents don’t have much opportunity to provide their children with fresh fruits and vegetables.

Connecting farmers and consumers

However, there are newer efforts to connect producers of food and consumers. As the Food, Faith, & Farming section in this week’s Catholic Herald points out, there are increasing efforts to grow relationships between farmers and consumers. Catholic Charities Rural Life Office is helping develop those relationships (www.ccmadison.org).

Most of us are aware of farmers’ markets held regularly in our towns and cities. Farmers themselves also often have self-serve food stands by the roadsides.

A newer means of connecting farmers and consumers is Community Supported Agriculture (CSA). This has become a popular way for consumers to buy local, seasonal food directly from a farmer.

There is a Web site (www.localharvest.org/csa/) which has information on CSAs. Here are the basics: a farmer offers a certain number of “shares” to the public. Typically the share consists of a box of vegetables, but other farm products may be included. Interested consumers purchase a share and in return receive seasonal produce each week throughout the farming season.

It’s a win-win situation

This arrangement creates several rewards for both the farmer and the consumer.

Advantages for farmers:

• Get to spend time marketing the food early in the year, before their 16-hour days in the field begin.

• Receive payment early in the season, which helps with the farm’s cash flow.

• Have an opportunity to get to know the people who eat the food they grow.

Advantages for consumers:

• Eat ultra-fresh food, with all the flavor and vitamin benefits.

• Get exposed to new vegetables and new ways of cooking.

• Usually get to visit the farm at least once a season.

• Find that kids typically favor food from “their” farm — even veggies they’ve never been known to eat.

• Develop a relationship with the farmer who grows their food and learn more about how food is grown.

Although I haven’t been involved in a CSA, it sounds like a wonderful opportunity, especially for families with children living in a city. Other than growing your own food, this might be an ideal way to get connected with the land and enjoy healthy, locally-grown food.

 
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