by Denny Scholl, Guest Contributor
With bare shelves at grocery stores across the country, more shoppers are turning to local farmers for the food they need. Maybe it takes a pandemic for people to realize just how crucial our local food producers are. They’re invested in the communities they serve and they’re on the front lines supplying us with fresh, reliable food. But they need our help. Here are some simple ways to support local producers in Rhode Island.
Support locally owned grocery stores and food co-ops partnering with farms in Rhode Island. Those grocers are thriving during the pandemic as shoppers hunt for fresh produce that comes directly from local farms. By shopping locally, you’re keeping the cash flowing through your community and keeping locals employed.
- Look for local brands at grocery store chains. Purchasing local products will help ensure that the grocer continues to stock the shelves with items from local producers.
- Check out local working farms such as Watson’s Farm in Jamestown, where you can pick up grass-fed beef or lamb to stock your freezers. Another benefit? Instead of shopping at a closed-in store, you’ll enjoy some fresh air on the farm.
- Shop at open-air farmers markets. In addition to supporting local farmers, you’re getting fresher produce that hasn’t traveled thousands of miles to get to you.
Fresh fruit and vegetables are available with just a few clicks on your phone or computer. By utilizing the Market Mobile service, you’re supporting the effort to get fresh food from farm to table. Stock up on fresh fruits and vegetables produced locally. Delivery options and contactless payments allow the consumer to stay safe while supporting local food producers.
You can also order directly from farmers. Some have now set up online stores allowing consumers to purchase from them directly. Why would you buy seafood that’s been shipped here, when Rhode Island harvests more than 8 million oysters a year?
Eat farm fresh produce year-round by preserving fruit and vegetables from local producers. Canning, pickling, drying, and freezing are common methods to preserve food. Pack your fridge with plenty of jam for the winter months or make several batches of tomato sauce to freeze for future pasta dishes and soups.
Food banks locally and nationwide are struggling to keep up with the overwhelming demand amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Volunteers can help pack boxes of food or help with deliveries and drive-through food distributions. Another way to help out is to purchase meat and vegetables from local producers and donate it to local food banks.
Support Farm to School Programs
Farm to School brings healthy food produced locally into Rhode Island schools. Farm Fresh RI is a core partner of the National Farm to School Network. Although schools in Rhode Island are closed for the remainder of the academic year, the effort continues to ensure resources and nutritious meals are available for families in need.
Share the News
Word of mouth is one of the best options to support local producers. Share images on social media of fruit, vegetables, and meat purchased from producers in Rhode Island. Utilizing social media helps local producers reach a wider audience.
Consumers want to know exactly where their food is coming from, and by supporting local farmers, they have peace of mind — especially during such challenging times. Plus, food grown locally is fresher, and it just tastes better.
Denny Scholl is a third-generation farmer who hopes to pass his five-acre farm down to his sons one day. He grows green beans, tomatoes, potatoes, and zucchini for his family and neighbors who visit him at the local farmers market. What he doesn’t sell, he barters for baked goods.