My Local Farmer’s Market

Recently, I’ve taken to the idea of buying locally grown foods. This idea has been bouncing around the zeitgeist for some time now and usually when I hear about it, the reasoning behind it is the environment. Local foods should supposedly reduce your diet’s carbon footprint, since it has a shorter distance to travel to you.

That may often be true (though in some cases it may actually have a smaller impact to buy products from the global market), but it’s not exactly the kind of reason that vaults it to the top of my priorities. There are so many ways in which our lives impact the local and global environment, it’s hard to know where to begin. I have more personal reasons for looking into local food sources.

I’d like to be able to look my farmer in the eye. I want to find out how she raises her food. I want to know how she treats her animals and what she feeds them. I want to know whether her animals get to wander a pasture and graze or whether they spend time in a feed lot. And I’d like to be welcome to visit her farm. Do her animals eat the kinds of foods that they would eat if left to their own devices, or are they force fed whatever fattens them up the cheapest, even if it makes them sick. It’s nice to know that your lettuce has been grown without chemicals, but I’m more concerned with whether the cows I eat spend their days covered in their own filth and pumped full of antibiotics.

I began my search in two places, the local natural food store in Peoria and a website where they list farmers “who raise their livestock on pasture from birth to market and who actively promote the welfare of their animals and the health of the land.”

Eventually I found out a little information about a local producer named Greengold Acres in Hanna City, IL. They are one of the egg producers featured at Naturally Yours (the local natural food store), and they can be found at a year round Farmers Market in Groveland, a small town just a few miles away.

I didn’t have a lot of time to spare this Saturday morning. The market opened at 8:30 and I would have to be done and back at my mother’s house by 9:15 to relieve my sister. So I got over to the market nice and early.

I was imagining a bustling market, a parking lot full of farmers unpacking crates of produce from their trucks, and young mom’s already milling about seeing what is on offer for the week. It wasn’t quite like that. This farmers market is smaller and more modest than bucolic image in my head. It’s simply a small green house in front of the local feed store where a few local farmers sell their produce once a week.

Heritage Farmers Market

Inside I met Doug, one of the farmers who runs the market. Unfortunately I didn’t have enough time to have the conversation I wanted to have. But I got the info I needed.

doug the farmer

  • Are the cows grass fed? Yes, mostly. They are finished with corn. I think this must be the norm, at least around here.
  • Do the cows actually graze in a pasture? Yes. No feed lots, ever.
  • Can I visit the farm? Yes. He actually offered this to me without my asking.
  • Are they organic? Yes… Well sort of organic. They aren’t certified Organic, because of the cost of certifying. This is something I want to hear a lot more about. From his short explanation, I’m guessing that very few of these small producers are Organic with a capital “O.” The irony is that small farmers don’t do enough volume to shoulder the cost of certifying that their product is actually organic. So they are forced to use other words to describe what they do. Natural, grassfed, pastured, but not Organic. I wonder if the USDA has plans to coopt words like beef, local or farm.

I bought some eggs, some ham, and some steak and quickly scurried back to Morton where I was already late. Next week or the week after that, I’ll stop by when I have more time and have a proper conversation with him and the others who sell their wares there.

One thought on “My Local Farmer’s Market”

  1. Somehow, buying locally, seems to create a rhythm in life again.

    It is too easy to not have seasons any more. I can get the same food 365 days a year, the same flavor and the same color and shape, it starts to blend.

    Farmers markets pull me back into seasons and cycles and life seems to be more real again.

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