Let’s focus on spring…
Spring is such a beautiful time of year. The birds are coming back to the North Country, trees are beginning to show their leaves and farmers begin tilling the ground for spring planting. The thought of fresh produce makes our mouths water and that’s when our thoughts turn to local farmers markets.
But did you know there is more than one way to purchase fresh, locally-grown food? Other than at farmers markets, northern New Yorkers can take advantage of farm stands, “U-Pick” Farms and Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) programs. Here’s a description of each:
1. Community Supported Agriculture (CSA)
CSA programs are a “win-win” for farmers and consumers.
How do they work? In short, a consumer pays a farmer up front to grow or raise a variety of products and then receives “shares” throughout the growing and harvest season. The products available through CSAs can include everything from flowers, vegetables and fruits to meats, eggs and wine. For help finding a CSA, keep an eye out for Cornell Cooperative Extension of Jefferson County’s “Local Food Guide” in late spring/early summer.
2. Farm Stands
A farm stand is a location at or near the point of production where farmers sell their fresh products directly to consumers. Like CSA programs, many local farm stands are listed in Cornell Cooperative Extension‘s “Local Food Guide” — and chances are, you probably pass by at least one in your daily travels!
3. U-Pick Farms
U-Pick Farms encourage customers to come into their production fields and pick their own produce, allowing them to experience the harvesting process. Popular crops for U-Pick include apples, strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, and pumpkins.
4. Farmers Markets
Farmers Markets are food markets at which local farmers sell fruits and vegetables, and often meats, cheeses, eggs and homemade bakery products directly to consumers. It is a venue for farmers to directly market their products and for consumers to access and purchase locally-grown food. In addition to traditional payment methods of cash, check and credit card, there are other ways for consumers to make purchases at farmer’s markets, including:
- Farmers Market Nutrition Program (FMNP): This program is designed to increase the locally-grown vegetables and fruits consumed by senior citizens and Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) participants. Senior FMNP coupons are distributed through the Office of the Aging, and coupons for WIC participants are distributed through local WIC offices.
- Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP): SNAP provides eligible low-income individuals with an Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) card to purchase food items. This EBT card can be used at designated farmers markets and will some farmers to purchase locally grown foods. To see if you qualify for SNAP, visit https://www.mybenefits.ny.gov/.
- WIC Vegetable and Fruits Checks: WIC recipients who receive checks to purchase vegetables and fruits in the grocery store can also use those same checks to purchase fresh, local produce at farmers markets. Look for signs at vendors’ booths!
Regardless of how you do it, purchasing locally-grown food products is a great way to help the local economy and your local farmer! For more information on any of these methods, or to keep up-to-date on opportunities for locally-grown food, sign up here!