By State Sen. Darrel J. Aubertine (D-Cape Vincent)
This time of year in Central and Northern New York, finding fresh quality produce is as easy as jumping in a car and hitting a country highway, or walking down the street to the local farmerÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s market. At these markets and road side stands in Oswego, Jefferson and St. Lawrence counties, you can buy fruits, vegetables, local honey and other products directly from the farmer.
In some cases, the roadside stand may just be a few boxes with the pick of the day out for you to take from and pay for by putting money in an honor box. Other stands, both along the road and at farmers markets, have a mix of local and regional crops to give consumers a selection like you might find in the supermarket, with a cashier on hand to bag up your selections and make change. No matter what the set up is, generally these stands are a great way to add vegetables, fruits and fresh farm products to your familyÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s diet.
Agriculture is an important part of the foundation of our stateÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s economy, especially upstate, but it is often left out when discussing job creation and revitalization. The reality is that a strong agricultural industry builds our rural economy, supports small business and will help the economy as a whole grow. Promoting local foods and programs that bring food directly from our farms to kitchen tables, school cafeterias and local eateries ensures that the money spent on this local produce stays in the community and has an impact on our economy well beyond that initial transaction.
Farmers are seeking new and diversified markets to increase the number of consumers able to have fresh locally grown food. Many socially conscious consumers are looking to buy local. Some because of concern about imports and the energy used to transport food long distances, but most because they recognize the quality and freshness of what they can get locally. New initiatives have increased the profile of our New York farms for these consumers, but we can do more.
The Northern New York Agricultural Development (www.nnyagdev.org) program has put together local food guides for Jefferson, St. Lawrence and four more counties in Northern New York, while Cornell Cooperative Extension has done the same for Oswego and other upstate counties. These guides offer consumers the opportunity to buy fruits, vegetables, beef, lamb, chicken, pork, rabbit, eggs, wool, cheese, honey, maple products and more directly from farmers.
One of the foods you may find in abundant supply from New York growers this year is apples. Reports indicate that the cooler temperaturesÃ¢â‚¬â€up until very recentlyÃ¢â‚¬â€and rainy summer are expected to result in record harvests this year throughout the state. With unusually hot temperatures throughout July negatively impacting Washington StateÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s production, New York apples are expected to fill the demand and find more space on grocery store shelves.
Buying local direct from the farmer or at the grocery store by selecting products from New York State farms is a simple step all of us can take to help improve our economy, benefit our neighbors and give ourselves the freshest and best foods available. I hope everyone takes the opportunity to enjoy some fresh, quality New York produce this summer and into the fall. I know youÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ll be glad you did.