NIAGARA VOICES: Local farmers deserve our support
Head to your local farmers market and support our growers. (Julie Jocsak/Standard file photo)
It has not been an easy year to be a farmer in Ontario.
Unfortunately, tractors don’t float, and with all the rain, many crop-based farmers were delayed getting their seeds in the soil because fields were flooded. For those who were able to plant on time, some had a significant portion of their seeds wash away, while other seeds that initially took hold drowned shortly thereafter.
Other crops, such as fruit trees that stand a little higher, risk greater incidence for disease and insect infestation which flourish in continuously cool, wet environments. Not to mention the hail certain areas experienced which further damaged plants and budding produce.
And don’t forget our helpful little pollinators the bees — turns out they don’t like to work in the rain either.
An example of this impact was mentioned by the Ontario Federation of Agriculture back in June, which stated that as little as 30 per cent of corn crops in some parts of Ontario had been planted and only 15 to 20 per cent of soybean crops (CTV Ottawa, 2017).
That’s quite a hit. Such losses serve great financial impacts to the farmer not to mention the added costs they endure trying to save what remains.
Weather is the dictating factor that determines how soon a farmer can bring product to market, the quality of the produce and the longevity of the harvest season.
This uncontrollable influence is the same thing we base our daily wardrobe choices on, our outdoor activities, the timing and location of our vacations, etc. Imagine if your livelihood was 100 per cent dependant on something you had zero control over, even if you put in more time, money and effort to counter balance the negative impacts? It’d be hard to stay at a job like that, but farmers are persistent.
So, it’s no surprise with lack of consistent sunshine and ongoing wet weather why some farmers were forced to change what they planted and why some produce may be a little delayed coming to market.
It’s easy to take for granted the stocked produce we see at any given time on store shelves. In a way it’s an illusion, suggesting farm to table is a seamless, bountiful transaction void of hardship and sacrifice. But that’s because we don’t see the faces of our farmers the same way we see the fruits of their labour.
Hence why it’s so important to reciprocate with the hands that feed us so well.
Need ideas how?
1. Visit a farmers market: When’s the last time you visited a market? Don’t worry, you don’t need to rise with the roosters to get the best selection. There are plenty of markets with varying start times to catch the early risers and end of day commuters. For a list of Niagara’s markets visit www.niagararegion.ca/government/initiatives/lfap/farmers-markets.aspx.
2. Community supported agriculture (CSA) farms: It’s an exciting affordable way that is growing in interest (pun intended). You pay one fee for the season upfront and then you receive a tote of fresh-picked fruits and vegetables each week. It’s a fantastic way to try new foods and capitalize on what’s in season. You can go to the farm directly or arrange another pick-up location and can select the quantity you receive based on your family’s size. Some farmers include cooking tips and dish choices to help people less chef savvy, which also helps reduce waste. Visit http://csafarms.ca/wp to locate one near you.
3. Buy local when grocery shopping: If you don’t see local produce on the shelf, ask. Consumerism dictates demand: If you buy it, ask for it, stores will restock it. It’s that simple. If you’re not sure what’s in season at what time check out this handy guide at www.ontario.ca/foodland/page/availability-guide.
4. Fruit and vegetable stands: take the scenic route and drive Niagara’s rural areas where fruit and vegetable stands are plentiful. Picked daily, you get fresh and often cheaper choices than most grocery stores.
5. Stock up: Worried about wasting food or missing out when the season ends? Consider freezing all those fabulous fruits and veggies. Freezing them when ripened will retain their nutritional benefits. One of my favourite breakfast choices consists of frozen grapes and granola sprinkled over Greek yogurt. Come adult beverage time, a few frozen grapes in my wine becomes a perfect natural flavour enhancer. So, don’t hesitate to stock up and freeze the extras to continue enjoying them later.
— Lindsay Bell is an innovative workplace wellness specialist and human resources professional passionate about creating healthy and engaged workplaces. She can be contacted at email@example.com.