I'm really hoping that this phrase, "Know your farmer know your food", proves to define our future food culture instead of being a fun bumper sticker supporting the food fad of the decade. Here are a few reasons why I hope the local food movement and my local farmers are here to stay:
Yesterday my little family visited Zilke's Vegetable Farm Stand in Milan, MI. Twice actually. We forgot to ask if they had greens so we had to turn around and make another shopping trip back to their veggie stand. We bought a bushel of sweet potatoes. This sounds like a lot but we really love them and after talking to Vicki (farmer and farm owner along with her husband Tom), we learned that our sweet potatoes will last us a few months if we store them properly. In a cool, dry place that is. She suggested we dig a huge hole, bury a trash can, and layer our goodies between straw and cover with a lid. Our entire yard is clay and we're tired of digging holes for fence posts this year so we'll have to figure out plan B before it gets too cold out. For now our sweet potatoes, potatoes, squash and pumpkins will live in our 3 season room. Anyway, we loaded up our car with all sorts of goodies including some birdhouse gourds which my husband, Jeff, has been looking around for. He has the gourds drying so that in a year or so he can use them to design and build some sort of musical instrument. I have no idea how he'll do that but he's got great workmanship for that sort of thing so I'm sure once he's all done it will be awesome. Earlier in the summer the Zilkes gave Jeff a whole box of volunteer gourds that were "not worth selling". Those are almost dry now. The term volunteer is used to describe plants that just pop up or weren't purposely planted, so to speak. But this is what is so great about building relationships with your local farmers. The Zilkes have been at the farm stand themselves between farming and actually talking with their customers. They answer questions. They offer advice on where to find great, safe canning resources. They go out the field to pick you lettuce, turnips, cilantro and arugula in the cold, windy weather because you asked for it and you're dying for some fresh greens. These are the kind of people farmers are. Friendly, helpful and caring people.
Last winter I had a goal of visiting a hoop house in the winter. I wanted to see veggies growing in Michigan while we had snow on the ground. I visited Capella Farm in Ann Arbor. The farm owner, Jennifer, gave me a tour of her hoop houses and her barn which housed the goats, chickens and turkeys (they all roam free in pasture too). She cares for her animals. One of the little goats even had his own little goat sweater because he wasn't always allowed to "snuggle" to keep warm with the rest of the herd. These are meat goats but they are treated well and cared for. They aren't just products or goods. They are living creatures that deserve to be raised with love and care. I love that this is what small farms all around are proving can be done.
I can't wait for the next growing season to visit the farm stand again and also to start my own little backyard garden. I'm also excited to hear what the Zilkes have in store for us next year. Tom hinted towards some new CSA options that may be available next spring. I'm looking forward to the news! I get so much satisfaction from knowing where my food is from. From actually getting my hands in the dirt and harvesting my veggies. From meeting my farmers and picking my food fresh from the field. From building local relationships. It makes me happy to know I can feed fresh, nutritious food to my family. Food that is cared for by loving hands that take great care of their living creatures and land.
Do you visit a local farmer's market? Have you ever subscribed to a CSA? What would you like to thank your local farmer for?
Local (Washtenaw County) farms:
Zilke Vegetable Farm
Find local food:
Animal Vegetable Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver