Many varieties of fresh tomatoes arrive at market

Published 10:38 am Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Looking for fresh, homegrown tomatoes? Look no further! Our long-awaited tomatoes are finally in. We have a large selection of many different varieties available. Also in season are summer squash, peppers, cucumbers, cauliflower, beets, broccoli and cabbage.

The importance of small family farms is sometimes overlooked. The dramatic expansion of industrial agriculture has made it increasingly difficult for small family farmers in the U.S. to stay in business. Instead, the food industry has become dominated by a handful of giant corporations which benefit from government policies that favor large-scale production.

Family farmers are being forced out of business at an alarming rate. According to Farm Aid, every week 330 farmers leave their land. As a result, there are now nearly 5 million fewer farms in the U.S. than there were in the 1930s. Of the 2 million remaining farms, only 565,000 are family operations. As established family farms are shut down, they are not being replaced by new farms and young farmers. Very few young people become farmers today, and half of all U.S. farmers are between the ages of 45 and 65, while only 6 percent of all farmers are under the age of 35.

Email newsletter signup

Because our health, our environment and our communities are so greatly affected by food production, the way food is produced and shipped matters just as much as what’s in the food. For many people, the connection between farm and fridge is vague at best. In an age where a handful of corporate food processors determine most of what we find in the supermarket, it is critical for consumers to learn about where their food comes from and make their own informed choices.

Why are family farms important? In addition to producing fresh, nutritious, high-quality foods, small family farms provide a wealth of benefits for their local communities and regions. Perhaps most importantly, family farmers serve as responsible stewards of the land. Unlike industrial agriculture operations, which pollute communities with chemical pesticides, noxious fumes and excess manure, small family farmers live on or near their farms and strive to preserve the surrounding environment for future generations. Since these farmers have a vested interest in their communities, they are more likely to use sustainable farming techniques to protect natural resources and human health.

Finally, family farmers benefit society by boosting democratic values in their communities through active civic participation, and by helping to preserve an essential connection between consumers, their food, and the land upon which this food is produced.

The loss of small family farms has dramatically reduced our supply of safe, fresh, sustainably-grown foods. It has contributed to the economic and social disintegration of rural communities and is eliminating an important aspect of our national heritage. If we lose our family farmers, we’ll lose the diversity in our food supply, and what we eat will be dictated to us by a few large corporations. Clearly, family farms are a valuable resource worth preserving.

The Austin Area Farmers’ Market is open Thursdays, 3:30 to 6 p.m. downtown on Main Street; Mondays, 3:30 to 6 p.m. at the Oak Park Mall; and Saturdays, 9:30 to 11:30 a.m., Oak Park Mall. We accept all major credit cards and EBT. EBT users, don’t forget the BCBS “double your bucks” program. For the first $5 you spend, you will receive $5 in matching bucks.