Farmers’ Markets Provide Easy Way to Buy Local
April 23, 2011
Despite one of the soggiest springs on record, many farmers have been able to plant their crops by now. That’s good news for everyone. Agriculture is a driving force in our economy. In 2009, agricultural production returned almost $4.7 billion to the farm economy. About 23 percent of the state’s land area, or 7.10 million acres, are used by the 36,600 farms to produce an array of food. Our region is rich in diverse crops—from niche produce with popular organic labels to commodities that drive larger markets such as onions, corn, milk, and soy. I’ve talked many times in the past of the importance of buying locally but when we live in a global economy, consumers have to make an effort to do so. Most fresh products for a household, especially in the summer months, can be found at local farmers’ markets, farm stands and u-pick farms. Food co-ops, in which people sign up for food deliveries from local producers, also are a great way to buy locally. By buying locally, consumers help keep their neighbors in business. For those conscientious of the environment, buying locally also reduces your carbon footprint. Whether it’s flowers you need for your garden, or tomatoes you need for your sauce, it can be found within the county limits. The State Department of Ag and Markets web site provides a great search tool called the Farm Fresh Guide that enables consumers to find any registered retailer of New York’s produce at http://www.agmkt.state.ny.us/AP/FFGSearch.asp. There is also a comprehensive listing of local farmers’ markets sorted according to county which can be found at http://www.agmkt.state.ny.us/AP/CommunityFarmersMarkets.asp. I would encourage everyone to visit these sites, as the listings change from time to time. New York’s maple industry has made a push in recent years to earn its due share of recognition from the buying public. One of the ways it did so was to lobby for legislation from the state. Last session, I was happy to support a bill in the Assembly that became law that expanded the definition of “agricultural tourism” activities to include the production of maple sap and pure maple products. This enabled the maple producers to begin hosting Maple Weekend. For the past two years, you may have seen signs. Many local producers took part. It’s an opportunity for maple producers to introduce the sap and syrup-making process to visitors and potential buyers. In March, the New York Times did a feature story on the industry, adding to that reputation. At $17.8 million, New York ranks second only to Vermont in value of maple syrup produced. New York also ranks 2nd behind Vermont in 2010 production with 312,000 gallons. Other Ag Facts from the New York State Department of Ag web site:
- New York produces a variety of field crops largely in support of its dairy industry. Corn, soybeans and wheat are most-widely grown.
- Milk is New York’s leading agricultural product. Milk sales account for one-half of total agricultural receipts. Production in 2009 was 12.4 billion pounds with a preliminary value of $1.7 billion. New York is the nation’s 3rd leading producer.
- New York ranks third in corn silage production with a value of $290 million. Grain corn ranked 21st with production worth $315 million.
- Onions had a value of sales of $67.6 million in 2009. Onions are grown in New York’s muck soils in Orange, Orleans, Oswego, Madison and Wayne counties. The state ranked fifth in production for 2009.
- The state placed seventh in oat production, 31st in wheat and 25th for soybeans production.
- In 2009, New York floriculture products were valued at $171 million. Bedding and garden plants top the list of commodities. The wholesale value of New York’s floriculture output ranks seventh nationally at $171 million.
- Tart cherry production ranks fourth in the nation.
- New York livestock producers marketed 228 million pounds of meat animals during 2009, bringing in $134 million in cash receipts.