Farming / Food for Thought / GMO / Health / Resources

8 ways to support local farmers + sunfield farm and waldorf school

Spring is almost here and across the country {and around the world} farmers have been working for months to prepare soil and pasture for the growing season.

Sustainably managed farms and farmers are essential to the health of America’s food supply.  I especially admire my friend and farmer, Nicole, who lives and works at Sunfield Farm and Waldorf School.  Sunfield Farm is located in Washington State on the Olympic Peninsula and is a 81 acre working farm and school.  Five acres are planted annually with vegetables, fruit, and cover crops.

Nicole with her horse

Nicole leads the agricultural and animal responsibilities at Sunfield Farm, and runs a Community Supported Agricultural (CSA) program for over 50 people that runs 18 weeks from May through September.  She invited me to play farmer with her for the weekend and I gained an even deeper respect for farmers than I had before.

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Since the crop-growing season ended in the fall, we focused on tending the animals.  We milked the goats, moved the sheep into a new grazing area, fed grain to the chickens, fed whey (from a local creamery) to the pigs, and rounded up the cows, which escaped from their pasture.  She does this routine, twice per day, year round.IMG_1609 IMG_9061

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This small-scale farm is sustainably managed so every living creature on the farm has a purpose.  Organically grown farms rely on animals, plants, and people to keep the cycle of life going.  Everything has a role in providing food for the community.  For example, chickens lay eggs, humans eat the eggs and the eggshells are composted for the garden, and chickens keep the other animals clean by eating pests.

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You might be thinking, wow, that’s a lot of work.  Yes, it is; and farmers across the world are dedicated to this industry in order to keep food on the shelves of our grocery stores.  Nicole loves this work and feels fulfilled and productive.

For us city dwellers who purchase quality local food, how can we support farmers and communicate to others about supporting them?

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Here are 8 things that you can do to make a difference:

  1. Purchase and eat real food. Food that comes from the earth and isn’t processed into a food-like substance.  Farmers grow the commodity that all too often is altered and turned into an unhealthy food alternative.  Challenge yourself to leave those chips out of your grocery basket this week and choose cucumbers for dipping into you salsa.
  2. Prepare meals at home.  With restaurants needing to make a profit, the quality of food they sell often decreases.  Set yourself up for success by making a meal plan, purchasing good quality food, and cooking it yourself.  In most cases, homemade food is more nutritious (less sodium, less saturated fats), economical, and impacts the monetary value farmers get for their commodities.  Take one of your cookbooks off of the shelf, or visit a food blog on the internet, like Naturally Ella, for some great ideas.
  3. Purchase directly from farmers at farmers markets (Seattle Farmers Markets; Ballard Farmers Market), through a community supported agriculture (CSA) program, or through a grocery store like PCC Natural Markets, which source foods locally.  Cutting out the middleman means savings for you and increased profit for the farmers.
  4. Research how much it costs to produce good quality food and pay the prices farmers are asking for their product.  Farmers need to set prices based on factors such as product yield, production expenses, and staffing.  Farmers ask a fair price for their product and are not getting rich in the process.
  5. Teach others about food.  Education is the first step to understanding the importance of sustainable farming practices for our health and the health of the planet. Learn and teach others.
  6. Visit a local farm and get to know a farmer.  Farmers are real people working for human and environmental health.  They are often passionate about the work they do and are happy to meet their community that cares about sustainable food systems.
  7. Purchase organic or non-sprayed food as often as possible.  Organic farming practices are more time-intensive and expensive on the farmer but help to prevent synthetic chemicals from entering our bodies and environment.  Expect to pay higher prices for the extra work and money it takes to farm in this manner.  At a minimum, avoid dirty dozen produce which have the highest pesticide yield per pound. These pesticides are directly linked to various health problems in humans such as cancer, hormone disruption, and allergies.
  8. Vote and get involved in food and farming policy.  Volunteering, sharing information on social media, writing a letter to government officials, speaking your mind about sustainable farming practices can lead to dramatic changes to laws and regulations, impacting how farmers do their jobs.  One of the national measures on the ballot recently was should genetically modified foods be labeled.  I voted Yes, and will definitely be an advocate for a national bill for the right to know what’s in my food.

What other ideas do you have for supporting farmers and continuing access to organic, local foods?

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