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My View: Co-ops, outdoor markets give a boost to local farmers

By Sandy McPherson Carrubba Geary

While raising my children, I grew a huge vegetable garden. My daughter’s food allergies forced me into providing our own vegetables and berries. I had to ensure my child wasn’t exposed to pesticides and harmful chemicals.

What a treat it was to pick a sun-warmed tomato from the vine and taste its freshness. And by helping me garden, my children learned to love vegetables. Because of my supply of fresh food, I canned and froze food to eat during the winter. Items I didn’t grow myself, I bought at farmers markets.

My days of having a big garden are over, as are my days of canning many quarts of fruit and vegetables. The small yard I have now offers little room for vegetable gardening. I plant a few tomatoes and peppers in pots and am now a regular at farmers markets. Some of the vendors even tell me their produce has no chemicals or pesticides in them. I enjoy meeting the farmers and supporting their efforts. Thanks to them, I still do some canning.

If you read newspapers on a regular basis, you know U.S. farmers are struggling. Tariffs have severely limited markets for their produce. Extreme weather throughout our nation has hit farmers particularly hard. Huge factory farms are squeezing individual farmers. Small farms are disappearing at an alarming rate.

The agriculture industry has come up with creative ways to promote farm products and support struggling farmers. Agricultural cooperatives, groups of individual farms, join together to meet common needs, such as marketing and distribution. We have the Upstate Niagara Cooperative Inc. right here in Western New York, which helps our dairy farmers. Many of us support these cooperatives with our purchases, helping to make farming sustainable.

Sandy McPherson Carrubba Geary

CSAs, or Commonly Supported Agriculture, provide another way for farmers to market their products. Individuals purchase a share in a CSA farm and receive boxes of what is produced each week. Some boxes of food even come with suggestions on how to prepare the contents.

Farmers are not the only ones to benefit from a cooperative, which is an organization controlled by the people who use its services, products or supplies. Consumers organized food cooperatives.

Several years ago, I joined the Lexington Co-operative Market here in Buffalo. We were aging and required year-round healthy food choices. Other food cooperatives are forming in the region, offering a real chance to partner with local farmers and businesses and making a winning situation for all involved.

Those who join food cooperatives share values and goals. We seek healthy food choices, shopping in a friendly atmosphere and helping the Western New York economy. I prefer shopping at a food cooperative versus a large chain grocery store because I find the atmosphere more congenial. Oten I get produce that was delivered by the farmer a few hours before, rather than items shipped long distances. The bigger stores now offer organic foods, too, but our co-op was the leader of the pack in this area.

I am proud to belong to an organization that partners with our local farmers to grow their businesss along with our local economy.

You will find Kenmore resident and writer Sandy McPherson Carrubba Geary in any aisle at the Co-op.

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