This Thanksgiving, give thanks to your local farmers by making changes in the way you shop for food. While buying local and organic food from retailers does help farmers, buying direct from your local farmers helps them even more. When buying retail, for every dollar we spend on food, a mere 16 cents goes directly to the farmers who grew or raised it. The other 84 cents goes to "food marketing," the chain of events that gets the food from farm to plate, according to the USDA Food Dollar Series. Show your thanks to your local farmers by buying as direct as possible and give more of that dollar directly to the farmer who crafted your food this Thanksgiving. Even if you do it only once a year, on Thanksgiving or Christmas, buying direct from farmers can help your local farmers continue to provide quality organic food in your area.
Now that you've chosen to show your thanks by buying directly from a farmer, how do you go about it?
- Farmers markets: Find your local farmers markets and other local food sources. Try sites like Local Harvest to find farmers markets near you. Put in your zip code and you'll be given a listing of farmers markets in your area as well as descriptions of what goods they are known to provide.
- CSA boxes: Buying shares in a community supported agriculture program can help farmers even in the off-season. By supporting farmers upfront, they get much-needed capital to cover planting costs before they can sell their harvest. Local Harvest also has listings for CSA boxes by area.
- Local meats: If you're able, buy your farm-raised organic meats in bulk from area farmers. Order turkey or ham for the holiday or go in with neighbors or family members to share a whole pig or a half cow and plan a day to package and freeze your various cuts of meat.
- Support farm-to-table initiatives: Whether it's farm-to-table restaurants, farm-to-cafeteria initiatives or the USDA's Food Hubs initiative to provide better infrastructure for small to mid-size farms, supporting these programs that can provide lifelines to local farmers is a great way to show thanks. Even if shopping at farmers markets and directly at farms proves difficult, finding and patronizing farm-to-table restaurants is simple. Pledge to eat at your local farm-to-table restaurant just a quarter of the time you choose to eat out and you vote with your wallet for better food and support local farmers.
- Organic food delivery: While it does cut a bit out of the farmer's pocket by using the delivery middleman, organic food delivery is more direct than a grocer. Organic food delivery services compile organic food in periodic boxes and deliver them direct to your door. One of the most widespread of these services, The Green PolkaDot Box, charges a $50 annual membership fee to deliver organic foods to your doorstep at below-retail prices.
However you choose to thank your local farmers, remember to vote with your wallet to continue to support the many benefits of producing organic food.