Monday, December 12, 2011

Meatless Monday: Supporting Family Farmers with Your Holiday Dollars

Not a fan of Buy Nothing Christmas? Then you are fast approaching the last possible date for getting your holiday shopping done and your parcels in the mail. 

With a busy week ahead, online shopping is probably become more and more enticing. Well, do I have an idea for you! Farmers across the country have had a particularly challenging year — from those in New England hit by a late-season hurricane followed by an October blizzard to Texans plagued by drought. I know a great way to lend them a hand, while bringing joy to your loved ones and cutting out the need to stand in line at the post office.

Skip online food gift retailers like Harry and David, and go right to the source. Check out LocalHarvest, a website where you can locate produce and other agricultural items in your area AND shop online for items not available locally or for items you may want to send as gifts. 

LocalHarvest, located in Santa Cruz, CA, was founded in 1998 by activist and software engineer Guillermo Payet. According to information on the organization’s website, “LocalHarvest is now the number one informational resource for the Buy Local movement and the top place on the Internet where people find information on direct marketing family farms. We now have more than 20000 members, and are growing by about 20 new members every day. Through our servers, our website and those of our partners, we serve about three and a half million page views per month to the public interested in buying food from family farms.” 

This well organized site is easy to navigate. “Farms” is where you can search for shopping opportunities in your area. “Shop” is where you will find an illustrated catalog broken down into categories such as fruits, honey and bee products, wool, lavender, meats, and many others. If the item is available only for local pickup, it is clearly indicated with a bright yellow banner. While  on my tour of the site, I discovered many lines of alpaca wear, Texas pecans (and pecan pie), frozen heritage turkeys, beeswax tea lights, jams, citrus fruits. I finally ordered some Page oranges from the Orange Shop in Citra, Florida with FREE SHIPPING. This fruit was described as “an heirloom USDA hybrid between Honeybell and Clementine released many years ago, widely considered to have the best flavor of any variety. They're small in size, fairly easy to peel, and have a rich, sweet taste…” I hope this gift will bring a smile to a couple who love fresh fruit but don’t have the chance to enjoy it every day.

The site also includes a section on CSAs (Community Supported Agriculture) and a tool for locating CSAs near you. [There was quite a list for the New Haven area.] And a calendar of events… and a newsletter… and member blogs and photos. Local Harvest is clearly about supporting small farmers, in every way they can and  wherever they are.

Yes, I believe in shopping local first. But in my experience you can’t always get what you want in your own little corner of the world. If you check out this site, you might find you can get exactly what you need.

I offer up this discovery as one more way to help out the little guys. They may not live next door. But they still need your support to stay in business. Their communities need them to stay in business. And we all need the family farmers to ensure the availability of safe, flavorful, and varied sources of food.

Happy shopping. 

I often blog on food or food issues on Monday in support of Meatless Monday, one of several programs developed in the Healthy Monday project, founded in 2003 in association with Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and Syracuse University’s Newhouse School of Communications. Meatless Monday’s goal is “to help reduce meat consumption 15% in order to improve personal  health and the health of our planet.”

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