When we were living in New Jersey, there really wasn’t much incentive to think local. Other than what was grown in backyard gardens, residents really had no exposure to local farming and local farmers. While the concept was intellectually appealing, it really didn’t hit home. During the summer months, the grocery stores would throw up signs proclaiming “Jersey Fresh” or “Jersey Grown” but to a great many people, mostly in the area where we lived, the question thrown back was “grown where?” and “who really cares?”

Since we moved to Vermont my attitude has changed. Contrary to what some may say, I don’t think it has any direct relation to the amount of granola that I eat or the type of shoes that I wear and I don’t think that I’ve turned all hippie. Rather, I think that it has to do with the fact that local is not just a hip catch phrase, but rather a way of life. For example, down the hill from us is a dairy farm, during the summer months a fabulous farm stand is down there as well, in Rutland right by the supermarket there is a year-round farmer’s market, a co-op that has some really great local foods and you just cannot get away from the fact that people around here know where their food comes from and more importantly, want to know where it comes from. Supporting local to some of us, means the difference between a neighbor being able to feed their family and keep their farm or going hungry and homeless. Besides all of that, it just tastes good.

I think that it is easier to be more locally minded when you live somewhere a little bit more in touch with nature. Not to say that city dwellers can’t be local minded, but when you wake up and go to sleep with land separating you from your neighbor measured in parts of miles and not in feet or inches, you are almost obliged to give some thought to your surroundings and your food sources.

In the last year, we have purchased 1/2 cow from a local family; a pig from another. We have a garden that is large enough to feed our family of five, share and store for the winter months. We have access to a farmer’s market where you see the same faces each week and get to know them as friends, indeed as neighbors, since most of them are living right in your neck of the woods.

I was happy to hear that Hannaford Supermarket has joined the Keep Local Farms program that was launched last year. It is essentially the dairy farmer’s answer to “Fair Trade” which so many of us know from our coffee and chocolate purchases in an effort to keep wages fair for those in foreign countries. Now is the time to take it local, to some of our backyards in fact. The Keep Local Farms program is designed to offer consumers the option of purchasing milk and other dairy products at fair prices to the dairy farmer. As many of us know, the dairy farmers have been at the short end of the stick in so many respects for so long. In Vermont alone, 53 dairy farms went out of business from January 2009 through November 2009. Farmers are losing money for every gallon of milk that they produce. Latest figures indicate that it costs $1.96 for a farmer to produce a gallon of milk, yet that same farmer is paid only 97 cents for that gallon. Doesn’t take a rocket scientist or a 3rd grade math student to figure out that the farmers are losing out.

Hannafords is going to offer customers the option of purchasing local milk and/or adding $2 or $5 to their grocery bill at checkout, with the monies going directly to local dairy farmers. A good idea, since the farmer you may helping out is actually a neighbor if you live around these parts.

Dairy cows at Comboyne, NSW

Image via Wikipedia

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