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Do you know your farmer?

I grew up in a rural part of northwest New Jersey and remember summers spent “grocery shopping” at Godlewsky’s Farm like it was yesterday. As kids, I remember my mom would load us in the back of the Jeep and we’d drive the windy back road to the farm as the view of rows and rows of corn whipped by the window and the smell of earth freshened the morning. We’d say hi to neighborhood friends, greet the farmers by name, and run to see the chickens and goats and to pick out fresh tomatoes.

The memories of this weekend tradition has transitioned into a lifestyle for me as an adult – joining the CSA, shopping and socializing at the farmers market, hosting potlucks with friends, and taking action as an advocate for food sustainability and justice.

August is local foods month, and we’re excited to work with members and Localists to create educational opportunities, activities for engagement and pathways to take action toward a just, thriving local foods ecosystem. A strong local food system supports a community’s vibrance, economic growth and healthy landscapes. It’s a pay-it-forward movement! The benefits are evident right here in our backyards when we buy and eat local food and truly support small businesses’ success.

Why is the local food movement so important?

  • It supports the local economy and helps keep local dollars local.
  • It protects biodiversity, local natural resources, reduces carbon emissions and is better for the environment.
  • It produces fresher food that tastes better and is healthier to eat.
  • It helps create community. You know who your farmers and chefs are through CSAs, farmers markets, table to farm dining and meal sharing.

We love Eat Local Month. Local First supports the local foods movement in a variety of ways and engages in multiple partnerships to ensure our effectiveness and collective success. One example is the initiation of the Manna Shared Kitchen program – an initiative driven by our Food Business Workgroup led by the La Plata Food Equity Coalition. As a participant, we were thrilled to support two new food truck businesses in town – Tacos La Carranza and Taqueria La Costa. We also prioritize supporting local food sourcing for our BASHs as much as possible, and wanted to thank EsoTerra for catering not one, but two of our social hours so far. Mark your calendars for September’s member gathering at Jimmy’s Music Supply, where we’ll soon share the new local caterer for that exciting event.

Lastly, it is with great pleasure to showcase one of Local First’s signature events coming right around the corner on Sept.16 – the Harvest Dinner. This event aims to create deeper connections with people and their food system, support local farmers, promote local independent food businesses, and to better our community. Our 2023 Harvest Dinner will be held on the Smiley lawn, and it will showcase the work of talented chefs sourcing local produce from multiple farmers in the region. We’ll be offering a happy hour with music and hors d’oeuvres, a pairing with five courses and a presentation from each participating chef. It is “fun”draiser and a night to remember.

As local empowered community members, we vote with our choices and dollars every day. Those decisions are impactful and set the tone for movement making into the future. When the choice is available to you, stop and pause and ask yourself, “How can I make a difference today?” Purchase as locally as you are able, educate yourself and the public about the importance of local foods, and support organizations that advocate to ensure equitable access to healthy, affordable, locally sourced foods and products are available to everyone.

To learn more about Eat Local month, to support Local First or to buy tickets to the Harvest Dinner, visit our website at local-first.org. See you Saturday at the market!

Lauren Berutich is CEO of Local First.