Letter from Hattie,
Hattie’s Garden would like to wish everyone a very joyous and happy holiday season.
I would also like to thank you. Your business and support to both Hattie’s Garden and other local producers is very important for the creation of a local sustainable foodshed on Delmarva. Eating locally grown foods has many benefits for the consumer, the grower, the community and the environment. For a good list on the many benefits of local food, see these great articles from Sustainable Table, MSU Extension and Locavores.
We can and will reach more and more people with local food and with important information about nutrition and the potentials and necessities of sustainability.
I’d like to talk about a few things I’ve been pondering.
Over the past several years, I’ve been very busy growing and selling, selling and growing. Though it has been very rewarding, it has also been exhausting. I decided to tone it down this winter, so I could regroup and just think about all that I’ve been doing, and all that has happened in these last several years of rapid growth for myself and the many small farmers that I know. There is much we have done and yet there is much we still need to do.
I am a founding member of the Historic Lewes Farmers Market (HLFM), as well as a current board member. I’m passionate about our mission to bring local, sustainably grown food to our region — or to any region.
One of the critical components of our work is the acceptance of the Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) card through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly called Food Stamps, at the HLFM.
We match the first $10 for anyone using EBT benefits at our market for any week they come. That means, that during the market season, a person receiving food stamp benefits can increase their food dollars by $40 per month. That’s not chump change for many. We would do more and will do more. We depend upon donations for these matching benefits and I would like to see the HLFM eventually matching every dollar a patron wishes to spend at our market. I would also like to see us reaching more and more people on this crucial public assistance program.
I have one story from last summer I would like to share. On a rare occasion when I was actually walking around the market instead of selling at my tent, I introduced myself to a woman who had found our market that day and was using her EBT benefits. She was so excited about the extra money that she was in tears. She said that for her, the $10 meant she did not have to make a choice between buying eggs and buying vegetables. She could have both and she knew the quality she was getting. I was so moved by her appreciation that I was in tears myself. We did not expect as much participation for EBT as we had last summer and yet, it was just a drop in the bucket.
If you know people using food stamps, please tell them about us. They may tell you they can’t afford to shop at the farmers market and that it is for rich people. They might be right when it comes to some products, but mostly, they are not right. So many of us need education about local food, about farmers markets, about what the real costs are.
Donate to our EBT matching funds so we can match more and more dollars for people who do not have enough to eat and certainly not enough of the right things to eat. If we all make a small difference, it adds up. We will need help in the spring to get more EBT patrons on board. We need to find a way to reach them, to get them to the market, to teach them how to prepare good food again.
The health benefits of eating plenty of vegetables are well known to us all and they do trump any actual difference in prices at the farmers market, but that’s not even my point. Actual studies have shown that, produce at the market is in most cases, NOT more expensive than what can be found in a supermarket.
I often take a look at farmers market prices and compare them with supermarket prices and I am always pleasantly surprised. The farmer in his or her season must price things to sell. We have lots of things all at once and we often have similar offerings.
During tomato season, you can buy and freeze “seconds” and have enough tomatoes to obviate the need for expensive, store-bought tomatoes in cans containing lining made with BPA.
I may buy a bunch of beets with beautiful greens for $4 at the farmers market. Why wouldn’t I then buy a bunch at a supermarket for much less? The answer is simple. Generally beet greens found in the supermarket have seen better days. They look old and ragged, probably because the average beets in the average grocery store have been in transit and in storage for a week or more. There are less beets in these bunches, and because they are so large, they are difficult to cook and generally tasteless.
In contrast, my freshly harvested market beets not only have an incomparable flavor, but you get two meals; one for the greens and one for the beets. These are the things we are trying to teach our patrons and would-be patrons about locally grown food.
You can get plenty of bargains at farmers markets and real value that allows you to then buy those eggs that may very well be more expensive than the pale yellow-yolked, thin-shelled, factory grown eggs with improperly balanced essential fatty acids we can all find at the supermarket for a killer price — no pun intended.
And you’ll be ending your support of the kind of factory-raised fowl that speaks about our inhumane treatment of farm animals in the culture.
So, I implore you, don’t just shop at the farmers markets. Search out locally grown food.
And most importantly, in the spirit of a season of giving and of gratitude, search out people who need to know about local food. Help them to find farmers markets.
Did you know it takes but a generation for us to lose important traditions? I can’t tell you the number of people I have had the honor of educating a little about vegetables. I was astounded to find so many of us who did not know what an eggplant was, or that arugula and greens are different from lettuce. I’m constantly teaching patrons what it means to be “in season” and why they can’t find local tomatoes in May or June. Kale is currently trending. That’s nice, but kale in summer is a very poor substitute for kale in season when it is delicious from the cold weather.
I hope you eat many vegetables in their time and enjoy nutrients from as many sources as possible. Do your research. Juicing is wonderful, but it too has its time and place. Don’t forget to read about the nutrients that are NOT available in raw vegetables and need to be cooked to be fully realized.
Listen to your ancestors. They also knew many of the best ways to prepare vegetables.
Don’t stop at one trend, rather enjoy the abundance of the earth as offered to you by farmers who have a passion for what they do. I hope you can become a part of that passion as you engage with your local farmers in ways you may never have thought possible. Know them and support them and they will gladly grow for you the most wonderful abundance the earth has to offer.
As the demand for locally grown produce and meat grows, local farmers also grow. Buying local food keeps your dollars circulating in our community.
Getting to know the farmers who grow your food builds relationships based on understanding and trust, the foundation of strong communities. Knowing your farmer gives you insight into the seasons, the land, and your food.
Finally, I have to share an article from New Hampshire Public Radio with you. This model is one I have thought about all the time I have been farming; farming as a direct part of our communities. I would love to see Delaware developers grab onto this model and show us what they can do. But that is enough out of me today. Thank you for reading and for being a part of Hattie’s Garden.
P.S. AND … We are very excited about what we will be bringing you in 2014. Hattie’s Garden will soon let you know what we will be growing and what bedding plants and vegetable plants you might plan on getting from us. From a container garden to a flower bed to a little vegetable plot, you can grow vegetables and herbs.
Very best wishes for a very happy New Year!