Editorial: Farm stands remain the best way to ‘buy local’

07/07/2016 7:26 AM |

Unless pumpkins are your produce of choice, there’s no better time of year than July to purchase fruits and vegetables grown on the North Fork.

The blueberries are being picked, the corn is being shucked and the local cucumber, cauliflower and tomato seasons have begun.

In total, about a dozen additional standard varieties of locally grown produce are available at farm stands right now.

Will you take the time to buy directly from your local farmer?

While a report in Newsday last month boasted of an increased presence of local produce in Long Island supermarkets, that’s not necessarily what’s best for area farmers.

As our story in this week’s paper outlines, despite growing demand, many local farmers still do not sell wholesale to area grocery stores. Even those who do tend to prefer direct sales at farm stands and farmers markets.

The financial impact of regulations, costs of distribution and other expenses have made wholesaling impractical for many.

The average Long Island farm is only about 100 acres — and most are family-owned, making it difficult for growers to offer their fruits and vegetables at a competitive price against other producers in a wholesale environment. That’s especially true when compared with corporately owned farms in the Midwest, which cultivate as many as 2,500 acres.

The farm stand’s price might not be best for your budget, but it helps ensure that farmers get a fair price for their produce. And it’s more than just a PR pitch to say there’s value in knowing your local farmer. There’s no better way to learn how to best prepare your food than by talking with the person who grew it. Shopping at farmers markets or participating in a Community Supported Agriculture program will also help educate you about fruits and vegetables you might not ordinarily try.

If you do buy your produce at the supermarket, seek out in-season inventory purchased from Long Island farms. If something is branded as local, find out exactly where it was grown.

Then, on your way home, make a quick stop to pick up that one last item at a local farm stand. It really can make a difference.

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