According to a Take Part article, my state of California is number 42 on the list of states who have the best support systems for eating locally. A state with the most farmers markets in the country is in the bottom 10. But sadly, many areas that appear to be a locavore's paradise - with farmers markets nearly every day and trendy eateries boasting local delicacies - are not as perfect as they seem.
When I was looking for a CSA to join, my area only had a few options. Then when I narrowed it down by affordability, those options became even fewer. The fact of the matter is that organic farms around here don't always get the support they need from the community which drives up food prices. Because of the higher prices, more people think of buying local organic produce as out of their budget thus creating even less support and more price hikes in a vicious cycle for the farmers.
We have to stop supporting big agriculture and start supporting the little guy. It's not just because of the health factor, or the impact on the environment, but small farms are good for the community. Here are four ways you can help support your local farmers. Some of those options you can do right now while you're sitting at your computer.
Go to the farmers market. You don't have to spend your entire grocery budget there. Just going and talking to some of the vendors may open you up a little bit. Most farmers market also provide a way for people in the community to come together. Music, food, free samplings of the items available, and sometimes even community art projects. If you feel inclined, buy a few of the lower-cost items. These vendors have to pay to be there, so if they don't make more than they spend chances are they won't come back, which could make your farmers market shrink or disappear all together. Make friends with them and you might just get a better deal, like a discount for buying 4 dozen pastured eggs at a time. Some of the guys will throw a few extra items in my bag just for being a regular customer. I bet the grocery store doesn't do that to you.
Visit a farm. We have quite a few u-pick places out here. Some are just a field of strawberries on the side of the road, and others are fully-functioning farms with a farm stand, tours, and all kinds of different things you can pick on your own. Last year we took advantage of a great deal at one of the local farms towards the end of corn season. We got a free wagon ride tour of the farm, a few tastes of different veggies, and got to pick our own corn, just having to pay for what we picked - 12 ears for $7. I ended up picking up a few items from the stand as well, but got some awesome local and organic products for a great price, and had a fun day with my kids as well.
Join a CSA. Start by going online an exploring the options in your area. Not all CSAs have websites, so it's also a good idea to ask around for recommendations. I found my CSA through a friend, and I love that it's a weekly payment rather than a big upfront cost. Not only that, the particular CSA I belong to supports a network of small farms, and that helps bring even more of a variety of items to me at a more affordable price.
Sign the petition. Currently some of our tax dollars are going towards supporting big farms, and other agricultural business, many of the beneficiaries being people who've never worked on a farm a day in their life. By signing this petition, you can tell Congress that you want your money to go to supporting small farms who really need it. It's not cheap for farms to go through organic certification, and other regulations that end up bringing up the cost of local food. The hope is that with some help from the government, local can be affordable and plentiful.