Organic farming has been a regulated industry for more than 40 years, but mainstream consumers did not shop for such products in earnest until about 25 years ago.
Everyday shoppers started educating themselves on the foods in the their pantries: Pesticides, food dyes, steroids, hormones and more had been introduced to our bodies, and more families wanted to seek alternatives to avoid it all.
Twenty years ago, the push for organically farmed foods was a push for a more healthy conscious populous, but the special attention placed on preparing such foods on the farm often landed a few punches on the wallet. Some people could muster the cost. Others, however, could not.
Residents of the Capital District have seen a resurgence in what is now known as a Farm-to-Table mentality, spurred on by the numerous farmers markets boasted by every community.
It’s ironic how the people who reside in the suburbs of Albany find themselves being reacquainted with farm life. Some credit this to a hip trend brought on by a younger generation that has grown up environmentally conscious. Nevertheless, it is a throwback to a time when our high schools still held 4H Clubs and our neighborhood “market” was not preceded by “super.”
There are plenty who can recall when produce bought at local grocers were farmed locally. If you wanted beef, it came from the farm down the road. And, if you desired strawberries, they better be in season.
The Bethlehem Children’s School celebrates 20 years with a Farm to Table Festival this Saturday. It’s another effort to educate the community on local farming. Several farms from as far south as Ghent to as far west as Amsterdam will showcase the produce available to Capital District consumers. Once you start looking at the packaging at your local supermarket, it’s scary to find some of those bags of apples you picked up come from outside New York state.
Doesn’t New York produce the best apples?
The trend feeding into the popularity behind the farmers markets you find throughout the area is doing a lot of good across the board.
First, it gives everyone a healthier alternative to corporate farming. (Not all are bad, but some homework is required.) Second, it supports your local farms. Twenty years ago, we had more farms around here. Forty years ago, even more so. Local farms need more support. And, best of all, getting your food from a neighbor you know is always better than buying it from across the country. (Leaves for a smaller carbon footprint, too.)
And, lastly, the prices you find at your local farmers markets are more competitive and wallet friendly today than in years past. It may still be a struggle to shop outside the middle aisles of your grocery store, but these farmers markets are giving families a fighting chance.