The hustle and excitement of spring is here, but I doubt anyone questions why this spring feels different, even on the farm where our work is relatively solitary. My thoughts are often with friends and family elsewhere, almost all of whom reside in more densely populated places than I. I can’t help imagining how I’d feel living in a big city right now, or working in a crowded, large environment, or for that matter not working at all and worrying about getting by. I feel for those folks and feel fortunate to be here working hard. I also feel so much appreciation for people serving the community at this time, especially health care workers. I can’t imagine what it is like right now, but you are all amazing.
On the farm, life is bustling. Farmers markets in Minnesota and Wisconsin are deemed essential businesses and are running as scheduled, though understandably without craft, art, and prepared food vendors and without music and special events. This means we are gearing up for another season, and hoping that customers make it out to visit us in a safe way.
Why visit a farmers market and support local food producers in a time of crisis, like the current pandemic? The reasons are many and varied, and they are also the same for what we’d call ‘normal’ times. But considering the way folks think differently about community resources, plus the increased focus on health and wellness, the importance of supporting small farms and local food networks is amplified.
Transparency and Safety
Are you concerned about the safety of the food you buy? We know that any day of the year, contamination in shipped fresh produce (bagged spinach and other greens, for sure) is a possibility that could cause us to feel extremely ill and possibly send us to the hospital. We also know, though certain interests would tell us otherwise, that local greens available at the farmers market pose less of a contamination threat. At the market, concerns can (and should) be relayed to growers as direct questions, and we, for instance, are happy to describe how we’ve handled and washed any produce, to give each customer the facts they need to judge the safety of everything we sell.
Health and Wellness
What determines the likelihood that any of us will become ill, any time? Dietary choices and immune system health, while not the whole story, are critical. (NOTE: I am not a dietitian!) Local produce is considerably fresher than anything shipped from warmer climates, and for many vegetables the difference here is stark. Fresh broccoli is notorious for a rapid decline in nutrition after harvest. Just six days after harvest, broccoli has been shown to contain half the antioxidant activity and only 30% of the vitamin C and beta-carotene originally contained (source). Supermarket broccoli, as well as kale, lettuce, and other greens can easily be several days old and will not pack the nutritional punch that local greens will provide.
Growing practices are also vastly different between producers. We closely analyze soil tests and add organic amendments in order to balance soil minerals. This mineral balancing results in more nutritionally complete produce, a fact that can be demonstrated using plant tissue analysis!
The Local Economy
In a state of crisis or near-crisis, where do I direct my financial support? Our farm continues to purchase from local and trusted suppliers, like Cowsmo for compost and potting mix and multiple small seed companies that offer quality seeds, transparency, and guidance. We are also considering acquiring a second wheel hoe, a shockingly effective tool that conditions our soil and controls weeds and runs on human power alone. Personally, I purchase food from the local co-op, and let’s be honest, it’s April and there isn’t much more to go around. My point is that in light of the current situation, our choices of where to send our financial resources is critical. Anyone who purchases plants or produce from us this season should know those funds will be used thoughtfully (always) and close to home (whenever possible).
The new greenhouse is packed with garden seedlings for folks in the Menomonie area and in Minneapolis: tomatoes, peppers, greens, cukes, herbs, and amazing perennial flowers. The first green sprouts are expected in the high tunnel any time now. My stress level this spring has been significantly lower than in past years, and I certainly hope that is a result of personal growth and mindfulness. But I don’t doubt that a big part is due to the joy and gratitude that comes from doing good work amongst singing migratory birds, thick mulch, and healthy soil, feelings heightened by the knowledge of the hardships people around the world are facing right now. It is an amazing opportunity to produce goods that Nick and I have COMPLETE trust in.
We look forward to connecting from a safe distance with folks at markets, and we will be sharing more information soon about other ways customers can reach us.
Thanks for reading!