Thursday, April 8, 2010

Questions To Ask Your Farmer

Good evening! It's almost time for the Farmers Market and with all of the information out there on sustainable farming, organic food and buying local I thought I'd offer 5 questions that responsible farmers would LOVE for you to ask! See... here's the deal:  we love to talk about what we do... almost as much as we love to share our food with you and your family. So ask away... to know where your food comes from! 
1) Are your cows 100% grass fed? Were they ever given antibiotics or hormones? This is important because when cows are raised on pasture or in fields, they graze outdoors and have plenty of room to roam. They also have a variety of diverse grasses to eat. Cow's stomachs are designed to digest grasses, so it’s best to find farmers who allow their cows to graze on pasture.
2) Is your farm certified organic by the USDA? When a farm’s products are certified with a third party label, such as the USDA, some of the work is done for you in terms of investigating into their sustainable growing methods. Being Certified by the USDA involves an annual inspection of not only the farm, but the farmer's records, seed suppliers, and the entire farming process. 
3) How many different types of produce do you grow? Many sustainable farmers rotate crops among different fields, allowing those not under production to lie cover under a cover crop just as clover or oats. This keeps the soil healthy by providing a natural fertilizer when it's tilled under and lessens the chances of potential diseases and pest problems. 
4) How are your Chickens raised? On a pasture outside? Caged? Confined inside?There have been studies that have shown the healthiest meat comes from animals raised on pasture, so you ideally want to find poultry that has been raised outdoors in a natural state. The most important factors are the number of animals raised together, the size of the space they live in, and if they are provided with straw and other materials they would naturally have access to outdoors. Ask your farmer to describe the enclosure the hens are kept in, and how much room they have to move around. Don’t rely on labels for your answers. Many egg cartons say “cage-free” or “free range,” but those labels can apply to birds that are packed into a crowded building, with little or no access to the outdoors.
5) Can I come visit your farm? Sustainable farmers are very open about how they raise their animals and grow their fruits and vegetables. Consider asking to visit their farms to see exactly how the animals are raised and how their produce is grown. Many farmers welcome visitors...PrairiErth Farm sure does!  

Come visit us at the Downtown Bloomington Farmers Market this year! It opens on May 15th! Here's the link to their webpage... they have weekly updates on what tasty stuff you can find each week: