Treasure Map

King County, Washington, has launched Local Food Finder, an interactive service that helps residents identify and shop from local farms:

“The mobile-friendly map is one of several ways King County is supporting local farmers who have been severely impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic that has disrupted farmers markets and restaurant sales. It is a product of the Local Food Initiative that Executive Constantine created in 2014 to strengthen King County’s local food economy and increase equitable access to healthy, affordable food.”

Straight to the Source

In the age of COVID, more people are buying directly from farmers, reports the Portland Press Herald:

“Some farmers have refocused on selling directly to customers rather than wholesale to restaurants and schools. Many have increased their online presence through virtual stores and websites while at the same time giving up once prime spots at farmers markets. Many farms have said it’s too early to know how much difference the uptick in business will make, and they’ve been too busy with sales to take time to crunch the numbers anyway, but the increased interest in shopping at their stores is certain.”

Going Digital

Farmers markets in Oregon are embracing e-commerce in response to COVID-19, reports KTVZ:

“Farmers markets are an excellent source of local Oregon food, and while most remain open in their physical locations, many markets have responded to consumer demand by also adding online pre-order systems for their shoppers. This is an opportunity for consumers to support local businesses and preserve the farmers market industry, which serves communities across the state.”

Pigging Out

Julie Kendrick recent bought half a pig from a local organic farm. There were challenges beyond the budget hit:

“When I pick up my three 12-by-18-inch boxes of processed meat, I’ll need to cram them all into the basement freezer and hope I still have some space for my autumn garden harvest (not to mention ice cubes). Then, over the long winter, I’ll need to stay up-to-date on my inventory and cook it all wisely and well. According to the farm, a typical half-pig purchase includes 8 to 10 pounds of pork chops, three roasts, two quarter hams, 10 to 14 pounds of bacon, three pounds of ribs and 15 pounds of ground meat.”

Objective Treatment

Tamar Haspel proposes an idea for fixing our country’s food system: crop-neutrality.

“I’m not making the case that rejiggering subsidies will dramatically change the way Americans eat; it’s a complicated matter, and I don’t think anyone can predict with certainty what the effect will be. But crop-neutrality aligns public dollars more closely with public interest. It lets farmers decide what they want to grow, and it encourages the age-old risk-mitigation strategy of diversity. It continues to ensure that a bad year isn’t crippling, and a decent living is possible for the men and women who feed us.”

Making the Shift

With water scarce in California and elsewhere, Liz Carlisle suggests growing and eating more lentils:

“One of the biggest advantages of lentils, from the farmer’s perspective, is that they don’t require much water. In fact, they are content without irrigation, even in areas that frequently see droughts. Lentils grow when it rains, and pause their growth cycle when it’s dry. Instead of overshooting and wilting, they stage their growth to fit their water resource, and they stay low to the ground rather than bolting up in flamboyant amber waves.”

Seeds of Adventure

As seed catalogs arrive en masse in her mailbox, Rachel at Dog Island Farm grapples with what to plant in her vegetable gardens:

“There’s a part of my brain that’s screaming at the rest of it: ‘Don’t fix what isn’t broken!’ Year after year, I post about what I’ve learned, and one of the recurring themes is to stick with the things I know work for our area—not to risk losing productivity because I’m feeling adventurous. But really, what fun is that?”

Off the Grid

Katie Welborn says farmers aren’t as connected as you might think:

“[Unlike] your average urban dweller, most farmers don’t have their eyes permanently glued to a glowing screen. Nearly 33 percent of American farmers lack Internet access and only 40 percent use the Internet at all for agricultural enterprises. And, according to the National Broadband Map (NBM) only 78 percent of rural residents currently have access to a broadband network–a fact that poses a problem for those using ‘precision farming’ techniques and working with precise, high-tech tools and Big Data.”

Fostering Community

Civil Eats shares the story of Roxanne Adair, who created an urban farm in Flint, Michigan, recently named one of America’s most violent cities:

“While Flint River Farm is filled with fresh produce, the neighborhood still faces its challenges. Across the street is a burned-out convenience store. The main drag, Saginaw Street, is a block away and is home to strip clubs, a pawn shop, and a liquor store.

“Theft is a frequent problem on the farm, but Adair doesn’t begrudge her hungry visitors. ‘If you need [food] bad enough to steal it, you need it more than I do,’ she says. But, she encourages people to reach out to her first: ‘Tell me and I will harvest it for you. I’ll wash it for you and have it ready.'”

“A Bona Fide Agro-Religious Experience”

The Pope is opening up the Vatican’s farm to the public, says Jason Best:

“No doubt plenty of devout Catholics will be eager to see where the Holy Father gets his tomatoes. But at a time when a nagging wariness in both Europe and the U.S. over the ramifications of industrial-scale agriculture has spawned something of a cult for smaller, more organic farms, the farm at Castel Gandolfo would seem like heaven on earth.”