Today, more than ever it seems, it’s easy to get caught up in the world’s negativity. It’s everywhere your ears can hear and your eyes can see. Social media and news outlets are rampant with all the things that are less-than-ideal today. Our food system is no different. Every day we hear the horrors of mass manufactured food, GMO’s, feed lots, and slaughterhouses. I will spare you the details of everything that is wrong with our current food system. That’s not the point of this journey. Over the past two years, I have developed from a consumer, to working on a farm, to being employed by farmers, to now being able to call them good friends. This is a journey that you are able to take, as well. So yes to farms, and yes to food.
My journey began on Savage River Farm. At first, I did not feel I was an ideal candidate to spend long days in the sun, bent over transplanting, feeding animals, harvesting, and other daily tasks that the farm life holds. However, with an open mind and a will to learn, I began working for a food trade CSA. I offered all the help I could, and in exchange, I was able to bring home a plentiful farm fresh bounty. I am able to be as active as time allows to be a part of the food I consume. I’ve learned so much about growing vegetables, animal stewardship, and the daily life of a farmer. No one thinks that farming is an easy lifestyle. If so, we would still be a land of self-reliant farmers. However, I am taken aback with the Savage River Farm family - Ben, Hana, Whitney, Ian, Little Ben, and all the farm hands. Their daily life is exhausting and everything goes as planned about 1% of the time, it seems. Still they are hardworking stewards of their land. They follow their passion, they invest in their knowledge, and they persevere with good spirit in their heart. All this hard work is to feed themselves and their community.
Today, I am the first non-farmer to be employed by The Allegany Farmers’ Market. My role is to promote the farmers’ market, the farmers, and the local food grown in our area. I began my journey as a patron of the Frostburg Farmers’ Market. Here, I was acquainted with the farmers and the food that was available, and I would often engage in conversations with farmers to learn more about their produce and the delicious meals I could create from their harvest. In May 2016, I was hired as the Marketing Manager, and I jumped with both feet off the ground into the world of the farmers. I visited Backbone Food Farm, Goodness Grows, Person’s Farm, Walnut Ridge, and am planning trips to more farms this year. I stepped foot on each farm with amazement for the natural beauty that is abundant on their land. I was invited to be a part of their day, and spoke to their children, grandchildren, and farm hands that are so entwined in their daily life. With all the natural beauty, there is a lot of soul that goes into growing their food. This is their dream, their lifestyle, and their livelihood.
Our Farmers endure hardships, growing pains, and triumphs daily. The climate in Western Maryland and surrounding areas provides a limited growing season, and what farmers plan to grow is often affected by the varying weather patterns. If farmers have a great crop of peaches, nature may claim their predicted plum harvest for the season. The beetles may eat all the crop of green beans, and a drought may affect lettuce production. Higson Farm, a lifelong farmers’ market vendor, is often faced with the possibility that a frost will eliminate their strawberry harvest.
Through dedication and hard work, farmers see business growth and a lot of triumph. Last year, brothers Mark and Keith Rinehart, of Walnut Ridge Farm, quit their full time jobs and embraced working on the farm full time with their mother Jeanette Rinehart. Walnut Ridge Farm has been a lifelong vendor of the Allegany Farmers’ Market. They have expanded their business operation to include prepared foods and baked goods, and as part of their distribution model, they run several independent farm stands and launched a farm fresh delivery service. Participants can choose to have food delivered to their home or work. In Allegany County, delivering farm food is a small step to increasing community access to locally grown food.
I feel lucky that I’ve been able to share this journey with all our farmers’. However, this is not the experience shared by a good portion of our community. Allegany County is ranked number one among Maryland counties with residents living in a food desert. Allegany County is home to 73,976 people, and 55.61% of the population lives in a food desert. A food desert is defined as any part of the country vapid of fresh fruit, vegetables, and other healthful whole foods, usually found in impoverished areas. This is largely due to a lack of grocery stores, farmers’ markets, and healthy food providers. This is a problem in our area. How can we fix it? As a consumer how can we become part of the solution? I can empower you with words spoken by Margret Mead “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever has.”
If you’re a human, you eat - it’s a fact of life. When you choose to support local food systems, you help to alleviate the negativity in our mass produced food system. Each purchase you make from a local farmer supports local food production and agriculture, a farmer feeding their family, and a farmer feeding your community. We can empower the people in our communities, who live in food deserts, to support access to nutritious, locally grown foods. I will leave you with the story of everyday Allegany County citizens helping to change the world they choose to live in. Last year, members of Savage River Farm CSA came together to donate food s to families that were not as fortunate to purchase these goods. Through these donations, families were able to eat the bounty of local food. This is a great example of ordinary people helping to change other community members’ lives. This is an invite to all who read this - let us become the small group of committed citizens that change the world. It is not a change that happens overnight. Be active in your consumer decisions. Remember this is not a one way conversation, but rather, an open discussion. Please leave comments, visit our Facebook Allegany Farmers Market, or send us an email at Alleganyfm@gmail.com to become part of the conversation.
Maryland’s Buy Local Challenge is July 22nd- 30th. We invite you to buy from our local farmers, wineries, and breweries to participate in Maryland’s Buy Local Challenge visit: www.buylocalchallenge.com
Yes Farms Yes Food is a non-profit organization that envisions a world where communities are focused on fostering food abundance and diversity for the benefit of humans and the ecosystem. For more information visit them at: yesfarmsyesfood.bigcartel.com
Written by: Clare Buckle