BELMONT, N.Y. — The question of sourcing local produce requires some thought and planning. What type of products are you looking for? Is every local market or roadside stand selling product they have grown themselves? How do I know I’m getting the quality I want and a value for my dollar?
Not all products available at local venues are locally grown. If items are not labeled, ask questions about where and how it is grown or raised. Most producers are happy to talk to you about their products and farming operation.
What is a Farmers’ Market? In a farmers’ market, a group of farmers come together to sell their products, baked goods, meat and eggs. Shopping at a farmers’ market is a great way to meet local farmers and get fresh, flavorful produce, ask questions to learn about how food is produced and how to prepare it for your table. Most Farmers’ Markets have requirements that vendors must produce a percentage of what they sell and label origin of farm product they have for resale. If items are not labeled ask the vendor to tell you what they grow and what is bought in and resold. For many farmers’ markets in our county buying in and reselling is encouraged to provide access to regional products that are in season but not grow in our county because our microclimate does not allow for it. For example, many of the fruits come from other farms throughout WNY and are brought in as a service to local shoppers.
What is a Farm Stand? A farm stand is a place where a single farm sells its products. Farm stands are generally only open during warm weather and may be “self-serve.” A stand located at the farm will make it easier to assess if it’s a local product. Product sold at farm stands or off the back of a truck may well be produced within our region, but some are simply trucking in items purchased at auction sites and the vendor may not know where or how it is produced. Again, ask questions or if the stand is self-serve you can always leave a note for the proprietor.
What is CSA? Community Supported Agriculture requires the buyer to make a financial commitment to a farm to become a “shareholder” of the CSA. They create a relationship with a farm to receive a weekly basket of produce and/or meat. Some CSAs also require that members work a small number of hours on the farm during the growing season. A CSA season typically runs from late spring through early fall, some offer winter shares.
What is a U-Pick? A U-Pick is a farm that opens its fields to the public during harvest season. U-Pick farms offer fruits such as strawberries, blueberries, and raspberries in the summer and early fall months.
The Local Grocery Store Many grocers’ are now offering a local produce section and maybe carrying other local products such as Maple Syrup or Honey. Ask your local grocers what is available and support their efforts to provide a convenient place for you to purchase locally produced produces.
Remember, all food is local to somewhere, it may just not be what you define as local. Ask questions, get to know your farmer. If they are growing or raising the product, they will be proud to share how they have nurtured and cared for the plants and animals in their care to bring quality food to your table.
For a list of local farms, Farmers’ Markets and CSAs, please visit our website for our Allegany County Guide to Farm Products: http://allegany.cce.cornell.edu/agriculture/allegany-county-guide-to-farm-products or contact your local Cornell Cooperative Extension https://cals.cornell.edu/cornell-cooperative-extension/local-offices.
–Lynn Bliven, Agriculture & Natural Resources Issue Leader
Cornell Cooperative Extension Allegany County