Why Local Farm Fresh Produce?
The local-grown movement continues to grow in popularity. In fact, demand for local farm fresh produce rises steadily each year.
But, why value local farm fresh produce? Can it truly be better than that at your local grocery? And what other factors should be considered?
Plus: Did you ever wonder why we work with other farms? Find the answers here!
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Local Farm Fresh Produce Simplified
You might find great produce at your local farmer’s market. But is it truly local? The demand for farm-fresh produce in most areas exceeds the availability. That has led to an increase in middle-marketers, people buying from wholesalers or other farmers and selling as locally grown. In fact, an increasing amount of this produce is not even grown in the USA. Produce from Mexico and other regions is often cheaper and more widely available. Moreover, this produce may carry no label stating it’s origination, leaving buyers believing it was grown locally.
So What Exactly Is Local Farm Fresh Produce?
Your local farm should consist of a real farm. If not, consider it a wholesale/retail business. Can you visit the farm? Have you seen it first-hand?
While most farms don’t allow visitors to walk through the fields, you should be able to see at least parts. At the very least, ensure the farm’s address is valid. In fact, even if you see their produce at the local farmer’s market, they may not actually own a farm.
However, local farms do exist. Although the numbers dwindle each year. Organic farming on a small scale is expensive and works on a slim margin. Your neighborhood family knows they won’t become millionaires growing food for the community. Instead, they hope to enrich the lives of their local community. Farming rarely offers a get rich quick option!
Farms That Work With Other Farms
So what about a farm that works with other farms? Does that still denote local farm fresh produce?
Is the farm working with other local farms and perhaps some just a few hours away? Or is it bringing foods from far away, perhaps even anther country, and not truly utilizing the locally grown model?
Let’s start with an explanation of annual farming in our southern climate.
Florida is fortunate to have long growing seasons with the potential to grow year-round in many areas. Small farms often attempt to increase their small margins by extending their growing seasons. While a large commercial tomato farmer might plant in the fall for a winter and spring crop, small farmers might add other plants during the more difficult summer months, too. Those three or four extra months can make a big difference in the end of year profits.
However, Florida summers are very hot and fewer crops grow well. Also, weather affects plant growth in any growing zone. Add to that, our hurricanes and tropical storms. All totalled, farmers risk losing crops, either for a grow period, a season, and sometimes one or more years.
Solutions We Have Found
Our farm believes in working with other farms. In fact, rather than consider them competition, we see other farms as complimentary. It’s unrealistic for one farm to grow every fruit, vegetable, and grain that the local community needs.
It’s unrealistic for one farm to grow every fruit, vegetable, herb, and grain that the local community needs. In fact, working with other farms creates a better economy for all participants.
Also, crops sometimes fail. Parasites, disease, and weather all contribute to potential crop failure. And, when one farm’s crop fails for whatever reason, other farms may help balance until the next crop is ready.
Why not just stop sales until the next crop? Indeed, some farms are forced to do that, especially if they grow only one or two crops and all are wiped out. However, bills don’t stop coming in. And replanting and rebuilding add to the costs.
However, bills don’t stop coming in.
And replanting and rebuilding add to the costs. If a farm steps back and waits for their next crop, they may not be able to financially manage to stay afloat.
And this does happen many times. Small farms might choose to just give up, if they lose an entire crop. Florida has seen this with citrus fields. Selling to a real estate developer might be the only solution the farmer can find. However, that leaves us with one less grower. And each time a grower gives up, whether they sell the land or not, we have lost one more opportunity for local farm fresh produce.
Visit many farms?
Of course, people could visit several farms each week to gather their produce. One farm for greens, one for potatoes, another for citrus, yet another for berries. And more. And sometimes visiting a single crop farm makes sense. But most will not travel farm to farm. Your local grocery store is much simpler.
And from the farm’s point-of-view, connecting with other farms makes sense, too. Not only will customers appreciate having more variety than just one or two crops, but the farm reaps a small financial benefit and a large time advantage.
For instance, our farm is open Sundays, noon to 5pm. Yes, customers can pick up on other days, too. And we sell at one farmer’s market weekly. But most of our sales are at the farm on Sunday afternoons. Why? We need time during the week to grow our products and manage the farm. We are a small, family run operation. Unlike the large farms, we cannot afford to hire dozens of people. By connecting with other farms, we are able to provide our customers with a variety of produce, in addition to our other products.
So, what about just selling at farmer’s markets?
We have done this for many years and still sell weekly on Monday nights. However, produce sold at the farm does not have to be taken off the farm and the remainder brought back. Therefore, it’s usually fresher than produce sitting out for several hours after transport.
From our customer’s point of view, farmer’s markets offer pros and cons. If many farms with a variety of produce sell at the market weekly, customers can benefit. However, unless the market entices a large number of consumers, each farm may find sales do not cover time spent. And with too much competition from other farms at the market, the situation worsens. This often leads to farms choosing not to attend.
Of course, some markets work well for some farms. But they are not the best solution in all cases. And they present another problem: non-farmers selling produce from wholesalers, often out of the area. This may lead to customers choosing to not shop at the market.
What is the policy at Heart of Christmas Farms?
Our farm has always carried some products from area producers and farmers. For instance, our honey comes from a local apiary.
However, we carefully evaluate each producer to ensure that their products are of very high quality and meet our standards.
We also bring in produce from area farms, and a limited amount from other states to ensure our customers can enjoy a variety of fresh, carefully selected local farm fresh produce. If the product is not local, we clearly mark it as such. We want our customers to be informed.
In addition, at times such as right after the recent hurricane, even more of our produce will be from other farms. While it affects our profit margins and is a bit more work finding and bringing it in, it benefits our customers and helps us stay in business while our own crops are replanted.
We may rely on other farms and producers at times like these, but we definitely don’t drop our standards. We continue to bring local farm fresh produce to our area customers.