Saturday, April 4, 2015

Supporting Local at the Kershaw County Farmers Market

One of my favorite things to do is support my local farms and markets. Fortunately for me, I have a group of "like minded" friends who travel with me to explore local farms and markets just outside our back door. The Kershaw County Farmers Market is one of our favorites, and is centrally located in Camden, South Carolina, easily reached whether you are coming from Columbia, Lugoff, Elgin or Sumter, and all of the surrounding communities.

One of the things we all really like about this particular market is the variety and availability of local produce, dairy and meat products, along with organic seedlings, herbal blends, Himalayan salt, prepared cheese dips, and pies or meals to go. It makes it one we look forward to every season.

With the Kershaw County Farmers Market, the season is typically the first Saturday in April through the Saturday before Thanksgiving. Believe me, we all look forward to opening day each year, and our excitement mounts as the day draws near. Yes, we are THAT group of friends who loves the taste of locally grown fresh produce and products.

I've been supporting this market for several years now, and one HUGE benefit of supporting local on a regular basis is you get to meet all the farmers behind the products. You know, you want to go to a place where everybody knows your name, and this is that place for me!

It usually starts with "hi Kathy" from Old McCaskills Farm to "hey Craig" of Camden City Market and Bell Honey Company, to "hi Robin" from Wil-Moore Farms. And so it continues as we make our way around the market from vendor to vendor. Another plus ... guess who they're going to message or email when they have a special or reduced price? Yep, that's right, it's all about the relationship you build, and the more you go and support local farms, the more you build that relationship. I love it and have benefited more times than I can count because of it.

This year the market relocated to the Historic Camden Revolutionary War Site at 222 Broad Street, just 1.4 miles off I-20, then north on Hwy 521. The spot couldn't be better with a large grassy area for the vendors to set up and plenty of parking for customers. It is so convenient and easy to get to.

10 Reasons to Support Farmers Markets: (via Kershaw County Farmers Market)
From savoring produce at the peak of freshness to meeting the people who grow your food, there are countless reasons to support farmers markets. Here are just a few!

  • Taste Real Flavors: The fruits and vegetables you buy at the farmers market are the freshest and tastiest available. Fruits are allowed to ripen fully in the field and are brought directly to you-no long-distance shipping, no gassing to simulate the ripening process, no sitting for weeks in storage. This food is as real as it gets-fresh from the farm. 
  • Enjoy the Season: The food you buy at the farmers market is seasonal. It is fresh and delicious and reflects the truest flavors. Shopping and cooking from the farmers market helps you to reconnect with the cycles of nature in our region. As you look forward to asparagus in spring, savor sweet corn in summer, or bake pumpkins in autumn, you reconnect with the earth, the weather, and the turning of the year. 
  • Support Family Farmers: Family farmers need your support, now that large agribusiness dominates food production in the U.S. Small family farms have a hard time competing in the food marketplace. Buying directly from farmers gives them a better return for their produce and gives them a fighting chance in today's globalized economy.
  • Protect the Environment: Food in the U.S. travels an average of 1,500 miles to get to your plate. All this shipping uses large amounts of natural resources (especially fossil fuels), contributes to pollution, and creates trash with extra packaging. Conventional agriculture also uses many more resources than sustainable agriculture and pollutes water, land, and air with toxic agricultural by-products. Food at the farmers market is transported shorter distances and is generally grown using methods that minimize the impact on the earth.
  • Nourish Yourself: Much food found in grocery stores is highly processed and grown using pesticides, hormones, antibiotics, and genetic modification. Some of it has been irradiated, waxed, or gassed in transit. These practices may have negative effects on human health. In contrast, most food found at the farmers market is minimally processed, and many of our farmers go to great lengths to grow the most nutritious produce possible by using sustainable techniques, picking produce right before the market, and growing heirloom varieties. 
  • Discover the Spice of Life Variety: At the farmers market you find an amazing array of produce that you don't see in your average supermarket: red carrots, a rainbow of heirloom tomatoes, purple cauliflower, stinging nettles, green garlic, watermelon radishes, quail eggs, mushrooms, and much, much more. It is a wonderful opportunity to savor the biodiversity of our planet. 
  • Promote Humane Treatment of Animals: At the farmers market, you can find meats, cheeses, and eggs from animals that have been raised without hormones or antibiotics, who have grazed on green grass and eaten natural diets, and who have been spared the cramped and unnatural living conditions of feedlots and cages that are typical of animal agriculture. 
  • Know Where Your Food Comes From: A regular trip to a farmers market is one of the best ways to connect with where your food comes from. Meeting and talking to farmers and food artisans is a great opportunity to learn more about how and where food is produced. 
  • Learn Cooking Tips, Recipes, and Meal Ideas: Few grocery store cashiers or produce stock persons will give you tips on how to cook the ingredients you buy, but farmers, ranchers, and artisans at the farmers market are often passionate cooks with plenty of free advice about how to cook the foods they are selling.  
  • Connect with Your Community: Wouldn't you rather stroll amid outdoor stalls of fresh produce on a sunny day than roll your cart around a grocery store with artificial lights and piped in music? Coming to the farmers market makes shopping a pleasure rather than a chore. The farmers market is a community hub-a place to meet up with your friends, bring your children, or just get a taste of small-town life in the midst of our wonderful city.

I encourage you to get out and support local farms and farmers markets in your area. Build a relationship with those farmers and the people behind the scenes.  BEST OF ALL, enjoy fresh, local in-season products. I think you'll be happy you did!

Be sure to check here for What's in Season in South Carolina.