One of the best feelings on a summer day driving through the country roads is to come across a fresh produce stand. Do you stop? If you take the time to pull over, you’ll taste ripe peaches and blueberries. Many communities have community gardens, local farms, and local farm share opportunities – where you can take produce home.
It is easy to find local farms near you by a simple google search or platform that promotes local produce. Do a quick search to find local produce, flowers, fruits and veggies near you. For example, Jersey Fresh and Local Harvest are great resources for finding local farms and produce options near you.
Jersey Fresh explains why localization is crucial to the New Jersey agriculture landscape:
1. Locally grown food tastes better
2. Local produce is better for you
3. Eating local is better for the environment
4. Local food supports local farm families
5. Local food preserves open space
CSA- Farm Shares and Workshares
Community-supported agriculture is a community of individuals who pledge to support a farm operation. You can receive a portion of the produce for labor or a fee. A group of volunteers comes together to support the farm. Or you can pay the price, which also helps the farm. Both options allow the farm to gain support and the community members receive food. The benefits are in-season produce, fresh foods for a cheap cost, and local agriculture support.
Local to New Jersey, agriculture and environmental options are vast. The Rancocas Creek Farm, a part of the Pinelands Preservation Alliance, offers volunteer and paid programs in exchange for produce. Jersey Fresh also promotes local agriculture with resources such as recipes, agrotourism, special events, and so much more. You don’t know what is available until you start looking!
You can search community supported agriculture near you at: localharvest.org
Farmer’s markets are well known throughout the summer months as a hub for fresh watermelon, sunflowers, and all your veggie needs. Make sure to take advantage of this half-a-year resource to fill your diet and body with the color to keep you feeling good. These town-wide markets host local businesses and farms, which support local families. These markets are opportunities to learn more about local businesses in your community, from flower farms to bakeries to restaurants.
Beyond local farms, your neighbor’s garden can put food on your table. Homes with enough backyard space for a garden are great resources for feeding their family and the neighbors! Down the street is a farm stand right next to the mailbox. I stop by and grab as many veggies as possible, mainly for $1 each. Not only is this a great steal, but the vegetables and fruits aren’t sprayed with pesticides or harsh chemicals.
Community gardens are designated areas in the town where members can work together to grow food. After the global pandemic and rising climate change impacts, growing food close to home is more appealing. The benefits to growing in the community are help from fellow neighbors, no harsh chemicals, and easily accessible options. If you can pull a group together focused on helping the garden prosper, it can be highly successful. My town group was able to donate produce to a local food kitchen.
Grow your food
Growing your food can be a rewarding and nutritious experience right in your backyard. The space and time aren’t accessible to everyone. But if you keep a few tomato plants in the sun and water them daily, you can save money and have better veggies in your kitchen. If you don’t have the best soil, raised beds, a greenhouse, or potted plants can be more efficient. Microgreens are easy options for at-home growing. Buying some seeds and planting them near a window can be a way to get microgreens, nutrients, and fresh veggies at home.
So how are you going to tap into local agriculture? There is much to learn about how your food gets to the table. If you look to your neighbors, they might know more about fresh, local produce than you think. Supporting your community and state significantly impacts neighbors, the economy, and the planet. Stop by that produce stand on the corner and pull off the highway to find the farmer’s market. These options nourish your body, the earth, and your town.