Choose local food first for the freshest, most nutritious and delicious food that sustains us and our farmers while supporting the local economy. It’s become much easier, and enjoyable, to eat this way now that we’ve had well over a decade of growth in the number of farms and farmers markets in Connecticut.
It’s a wonder they want to farm at all
Our local foodshed is a fragile ecosystem by virtue of the fact that the vast majority of farmers in our state are 65 and older (see table below). Farming is not a get rich scheme. I have yet to meet a farmer that doesn’t have a family member with an “off farm” job to make ends meet, and sometimes it’s the farmer that has the second job. It’s a wonder anyone wants to farm at all. It’s backbreaking work, and despite employing risk mitigation strategies, a bad storm, drought, prolonged and excessive hot weather, pests and disease can all undermine a farmer’s success. Yet farm they do, and how luck are we to savor the fruits of their labor?
|Land in farms (acres)||357,154||405,616||436,539|
|Total land area (acres)||3,100,675||3,100,721||3,099,212|
|Principal operators 34 and younger||143||165||281|
|Principal operators 65 and older||1,068||1,459||1,892|
|Land owned by principal operators 65 and older (acres)||88,472||102,905||112,504|
|Market value of agricultural products sold ($1,000)||470,637||551,553||550,620|
The real cost of cheap food
The higher prices we sometimes pay for local food can be explained very simply: there are no hidden costs. The food you buy in the supermarket, mostly industrial food, is subsidized by the federal government. That means you’re paying at least twice, once at the register and again when you pay taxes. But wait, you pay again when industrial farming damages the environment and has other unintended consequences. Think herbicide resistance due to overspraying GM crops which created “glyphosate-resistant superweeds that can grow an inch a day to heights of 10 feet and break farm equipment” according to an article in the St. Louis Post Dispatch. How can we even begin to quantify the cost of that type of damage?
Why higher prices for local food?
Local food, vegetables and fruit in particular, are considered specialty crops and do not qualify for federal crop subsidies the way commodities like corn, soy and wheat do. We subsidize crops that become livestock feed and cheap ingredients for processed foods, not the fresh food that people eat. No wonder local food is “expensive.” Relative to what though? The industrial food with real costs much higher than the cost of local food grown on family farms? Knowing the real cost of your food choices makes you an informed consumer empowered to feel good about where you spend your money. Every local food purchase you make is a yes vote for healthy people and communities, not a vote for perpetuating a broken food system.
Where to find local, sustainable food
Make a farm or farmers market your destination for eating in season and living a local-sustainable lifestyle. The following Sustainne members are food and farm pros with a strong commitment to people and planet. Be adventurous and try something new! When in doubt, ask the farmer how to prepare any vegetable you haven’t prepared before. Beverages, cheese, baked goods and more are available at the stands and markets so you can buy everything you need for a complete local meal.
Fairfield Farmers Market opened for the season on Sunday, June 17. Plan a weekly trip to the market, but go early for the best choice and bring your reusable bags for a zero waste shopping experience.
Sustainne members at the market:
- Simpaug Farms – vegetables and herbs
- Park City Honey Company – great drizzled on strawberries
- Wiggle Room – vermicompost for Dad’s garden and yours
The Westport Farmers Market runs on Thursdays from 10-2. The market sells reusable bags and metal straws to help you go zero waste.
Sustainne members at the market:
- Sport Hill Farm – produce, fruit and popcorn
- Paul’s Custom Pet Food – handmade dog food from locally sourced ingredients
- Aradia Farm – pasture meats, cotton candy, popcorn, maple syrup
- Skinny Pines – mobile wood-fired pizza truck
The Hickories, Ridgefield – strawberries are available for a limited time at the farm market; this Certified Organic farm sells a wide range of produce, fruit, meats, specialty foods and flowers.
Sport Hill Farm, Easton- shop for produce, fruit, popcorn, artisan and farmstead specialty foods, heritage pork, meat and poultry, fresh cut flowers and herbs. Farmer Patti Popp just introduced a zero waste product: bring your own jar to fill with freshly milled cornmeal made from corn she grew last season.
Whole Animal Butcher Shop
Can’t make it to a farm or farmers market? Head to Custom Meats, a full-service, whole animal butcher shop in Fairfield that provides the community with locally-sourced, grass-fed and pastured meats. Custom Meats works intimately with small farms that raise their animals on pasture, including Sport Hill Farm. Whole-animal butchery is an excellent zero waste choice because they are dedicated to using every part of the animal. Confused about cuts? Need grilling advice? Not sure about dry aging? Tim, Berenice and the rest of the staff are happy to give you expert guidance.
CT Grown and Made Wine
Sunset Meadow Vineyards is a sustainable family owned vineyard and winery in Goshen that makes award-winning, estate grown wines. Various local retailers carry their red, white, rose, sparkling and dessert wines as part of their Connecticut Grown offerings. Sunset Meadow is a popular destination to enjoy a wine tasting, a wine and chocolate pairing, wine dinner, and other special events. While you’re there, congratulate them on 10 successful years!
Every purchase of local food is an investment in the future of farming, farmland preservation, preserving our foodways, and building resilient communities. Please take a moment to join Sustainne so you can save businesses you love to your Favorites and rate and review businesses you’ve frequented. It’s free. Just click Join Now on the top menu. We’ll also subscribe you to our newsletter so you can stay informed and inspired.