This column is all about local food and where to find it, so let’s dust off our baskets and head to the nearest farmers market.
Each year, Adirondack Harvest spends the better part of a week tracking down all the farmers markets in the North Country.
Updated days, times, locations, market managers, websites and contact information is needed. This year, the list includes 65 markets across 14 counties. That’s up a bit from last year but not a lot.
The market numbers are leveling off, probably due to a couple of factors. One reason is that the farmers are already selling at as many markets as they can handle. The other may be the rise in community-supported agriculture (CSA) farms.
Both farmers markets and CSAs have been gaining in popularity as the local food movement continues to grow, but which one is right for you and your family?
There are pros and cons to each. Farmers markets offer you the convenience of many vendors and an excellent variety of products. In addition to all the delectable edibles, there are usually local crafts, bedding plants and other items for sale.
The market is a great place to hang out with your neighbors and support the local economy. If you have access to at least one, or better, several great farmers markets each week, and you have time to shop and gather everything you need, farmers markets might be your best bet.
You also get to choose only what you like, so you are less likely to throw out unwanted produce. And because you are not paying the farmer ahead of time, it may feel like a less risky option.
That said, many CSAs are functioning more like farmers markets, with free choice of whatever is in season each week. They really listen to what their customers want and expect in their shares.
CSA lets the farmer do less marketing in the busy summertime, setting up accounts during the slower winter months and planning to keep your weekly basket filled all summer long — and possibly spring, fall and winter.
Busy families may prefer the convenience of a CSA — no trying to schedule in a visit to the market when life gets hectic. It may just take a quick stop by the farm on pickup day, or even better, a delivery to your worksite or other nearby location.
Many people really love the variety of produce they get in their CSA share, saying it has forced them to try new foods that turned out to be pleasant, delicious discoveries.
When you’re a member of a CSA you can feel like you’re a part of the farm, becoming friends with the farmers, really learning their growing methods and possibly even doing some work to help out. I recently heard the children of one member refer to their CSA as “our farm” — what a great experience for the kids.
All in all, both farmers markets and CSAs are terrific, and some people never completely choose one over the other. CSA members often supplement with trips to the farmers market.
You need to find what works best for you – and we hope that involves making local food a mainstay at your table.
Visit www.adirondackharvest.com for a complete current listing of North Country farmers markets and CSAs.
Laurie Davis is an educator with Cornell Cooperative Extension in Essex County and is the coordinator for Adirondack Harvest. Reach her at 962-4810, Ext. 404, or by email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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