Can the public be assured that everything they eat is safe? How can farmers deliver their products to market without getting sued? How many restrictions can be managed without putting the farmer out of business? Who is responsible for the rules, regulations and checking to make sure those rules are followed? Is there an impact on the nutritional quality of the food when cleanliness becomes so important? And what is the long-term effect on the environment? These are some of the questions that pop up when faced with what is a growing concern for those that farm.
The farmer spent a few days in Monterey at the Annual Eco-Farm Conference last week. Food Safety was one of the workshops he attended. This is a subject that looms large on the horizon of farms, large and small. For a time, “hedgerows” were a big topic. Farms were encouraged to plant flowering natives to attract wildlife, pollinators and birds. Now some wholesalers are asking farms to keep all wildlife out of the fields through wide set-backs of cleared land and fencing, sometimes with plastic all the way to the ground, keeping out even frogs. Let’s hope that kind of drastic measure will not become a requirement for all of us.
Growing your own food and shopping at your local farmers market are two ways to keep fears of contaminated food at bay. Personally, I do not trust packaged salad mix. They are all mechanically harvested from laser-leveled fields. I want someone to touch it, to see it before it gets washed and packed. The packages themselves are special plastic that helps with shelf-life, so no telling when it was picked. It can last a month in their special bubble!
We have been selling a lot at our local farmers’ market this month, probably our best January ever. Thanks to good planning in the fall, we have lots to sell now. But I have been warned, that due to our rather wet conditions (we’ve had around 10” of rain in the past 2 weeks), that we will not have lettuce next week. It’s just not growing. I’d say it’s time for a coleslaw! And it’s been too cold and wet to plant anything. Next month will be slim.
Obviously we live in a special place, one where we have year-round farmers markets. In the US there are many places that don’t begin their growing seasons for months. I wonder what you do, living in New Hampshire or Pennsylvania? I am so lucky to live here.