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Support local farmers and farmers markets

June 13, 2012
By RICHARD GAST , Adirondack Daily Enterprise

Freshly picked vegetables, fruits, herbs and spices, homemade baked goods, local grass fed and finished meats, free range chicken and eggs, jams and jellies, cheeses, maple syrup, honey, snack foods, fruit juices, wines and liquors; all this and more, all local, and all on sale at farmers markets across the North Country.

When you shop at local farmers markets, everybody wins. As a farmers market customer, you get to select from the freshest, the finest, and the best local produce and prepared foods that money can buy. You can feel good, knowing that you're buying locally grown and prepared wholesome, nourishing food. Locally grown and prepared foods taste better and are more nutritious than fruits and vegetables that are picked before they're ripe and then transported across the continent or halfway around the world. Besides, it's fun to meet the growers. They'll appreciate your feedback. They're your neighbors. You can talk with them, share thoughts and concerns, ask questions, and get closer to the source of the food you're buying.

We're living in an age of global markets and marketing; of distance and being disconnected. It's all too easy to lose touch with the efforts and the productivity of our area's farmers and growers. But, shopping at the farmers market supports local growers and keeps money circulating within the local community. A purchase at the Farmers' Market also promotes productive use and the preservation of our land, our water, and our agricultural heritage for future generations.

The tradition of farmers markets can be traced back to ancient times, where market places were the centers of villages and towns. Not only were they places where people gathered to buy, barter and trade goods and services, they were places where people met to exchange news and share stories with one another, as well.

Farmers markets have deep roots in our nation's history, too. By many accounts, they have existed as a part of American society, business and trade since the 1700s. In fact, throughout much of the 18th and 19th centuries, outdoor market places were the heart of our American cities and centers of commerce in our rural communities. The Central Market, in Lancaster Pa., has been held in the same location since the 1730s. George Washington wrote about sending his kitchen staff to shop at Philadelphia's outdoor market during the 1790s, and Thomas Jefferson wrote, in 1806, about buying beef, eggs and vegetables at an outdoor market in Georgetown.

During the 20th century, everything changed. More and better roads were built nationwide. And as more modern methods of refrigeration were invented and applied, it became possible to transport produce from large commercial farms to centers hundreds, even thousands of miles away. Wholesalers took advantage of opportunities to place fruit and vegetables produced by large commercial and corporate growers into neighborhood supermarkets, and chain and convenience stores; all owned by even larger corporations. The local market all but disappeared and the small farmer found himself less and less able to compete.

Farmers markets began making a comeback, however, in the 1960s and '70s, probably due, at least in part, to the Back-to-the-Land Movement, a North American counter-cultural social phenomenon which gave preference to self-sufficiency and local food production. In recent years, as concerns about food safety and sustainable energy paths have increased, interest in locally produced food has steadily continued to build, and farmers markets are enjoying a rapid upsurge in popularity.

Early in the 21st century, things appear to have come full circle. farmers markets are increasing in popularity in all 50 states. As of mid-2011, according to the USDA Agricultural Marketing Service, there were 7,175 farmers markets operating throughout the United States; a 17 percent increase from 2010. And Americans now spend billions of dollars annually at farmers markets.

Local farmers markets are now open for the season all over the North Country. To the best of my knowledge, there are farmers markets located in Akwesasne, Ausable Valley, Canton, Chateaugay Lake, Elizabethtown, Keene, Keeseville, Long Lake, Lowville, Malone, Massena, Norwood, Plattsburgh (2 locations), Paul Smiths, Port Henry, Potsdam, Saranac Lake, Schroon Lake, Speculator, Ticonderoga, Tupper Lake, Wadhams and Wilmington.

And I'm sure there are some that I've missed. All are open on different days and at different times. Your local farmers market is a place where people can come together, not just to buy and sell food, but to share gardening tips and ideas, recipes, and seasonal information, as well. Shopping at the farmers market can be a thoroughly enjoyable experience. The customer gets the freshest, highest quality food possible and the grower makes some money. There are no middlemen and no stockholders, just local, independent growers selling their own produce and value-added products direct to the public.

Support our local farmers and your local farmers market.



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