Know Your Farmer
One of the best ways to get to know what goes into the food you are eating, is to get to know your farmer. However, it’s not always so easy. Last week I went to a nearby farmers market with my mom and was overjoyed at all the new farmers I hadn’t met yet. Their tables were full of gorgeous local produce and I couldn’t wait to ask all my questions about their growing practices and their produce varieties.
Perhaps a little overly eager, I bounced up to my first table and eyed several different heirloom varieties of watermelon. I quickly caught the farmer’s attention and asked him what these were. “They are all watermelons, and they all have seeds” he uttered sharply and then went back to what he was doing. Wow, I thought. That was rude. I obviously knew they were watermelons, but was curious what variety they were – what the difference in taste was- and so on. So I bought one, and resigned the fact that I wasn’t going to “know” this farmer.
My mom later told me that my sister had created quite the relationship with this particular farmer. After several weeks, he knew he could trust her and realized she really did care about his farm and his philosophy of sustainable food.
Most people are scared to talk to their farmers, they are nervous they may say something stupid. And we just aren’t used to talking to the people that supply us with our food. And let’s be honest, some farmers are just plain hard to connect with. Have you felt this? Have you been intimidated to walk up to a booth in your farmers market and ask your questions?
Here are some tips to make it a little easier:
1. Take the time: Just as it takes time to make new friends, the same goes for farmers. They need to know you are invested in them and their farm. Take the time to wait till the other customers are gone and engage in conversation.
2. Ask them something relevant to the time of year: How is the heat effecting their farm? What are they excited about that they have just planted for the fall? (or check out my top 5 questions to ask your farmer)
3. Buy their produce week after week: Something as simple as proving your loyalty goes a long way. And a little flattery doesn’t hurt either. Tell them their tomatoes are the best ones at the Market.
4. Ask to visit their farm: Sometimes it takes getting out of the Market and onto their land. Ask if they give farm tours and explain that you would love to see how they farm so you can fully appreciate all the hard work they are doing.
Ultimately, you will connect with some farmers more than others. Be patient, and schedule a little extra time for the market each week to connect with them. Once you do, you will feel a connection to the food in a way that makes eating local even more pleasurable. Afterall, these people are providing you with the sustenance you need to live your life.
What are some of your tips for getting to know your farmers?