Supporting Local Agriculture Through COVID-19
By Sarah Weisfeld
Breakfast, lunch, dinner…we consume food at least three times a day. How we interact with food and what variations we choose to consume not only impacts our individual health, it has a ripple effect on our community and planet.
The global COVID-19 pandemic has influenced industrial and local agriculture. We’ve seen exponential waste exhibited by a single hatchery smashing 750,000 unhatched eggs a week. Max Elliott, Executive Director of Urban Roots in Austin, says, “Now, more than ever people want to know where their food is coming from, and how many hands are touching it. The safest and most direct way to get food is locally, and more than its nourishment, [buying local food] also strengthens the community.”
Local agriculture refers to plant and animal products grown, used or distributed within close proximity of a city or neighborhood. Sometimes, finding local food requires extra effort over running to a big box grocery store, and it is important to know “why” it is worth it to inspire our own actions.
5 Reasons to Support Local Agriculture
- Environmental Impact. Shorter distribution channels use less fuel for transportation resulting in less environmental pollution and more resources saved.
- Quality of Food. With less time between harvest and consumption, local agriculture yields seasonal foods with more flavor and higher nutrient density. Produce that comes from far away is often picked pre-ripe and ripens during transport.
- Robust Economy. We can vote with our fork and buy from farmers, local restaurants and other small businesses to keep money in our community.
- Green Space. Ninety-five percent of land in Texas is privately owned, as reported from Texas Land Conservancy. Farmscapes and green spaces within Central Texas increase food access and contributes to a more “just” food system.
- Strengthen Community. Knowing where our food is grown, and who grows it, creates gratitude for the bounties we feast on and relationships that share values.
How a Local Farm has been Impacted
Prior to COVID-19, Urban Roots used their east Austin farm and slow farming practices to engage volunteers, empower youth, and nourish our community. With multiple revenue sources, events make up 30 percent and produce sales contribute to 5 to 10 percent of annual revenue. Urban Roots’ annual fundraiser was canceled, and youth programming was adjusted, resulting in a Farmer’s Market hiatus and decreased revenue. The Urban Roots team has had to rethink the farm’s design to utilize machinery and maximize efficiency to meet demands for harvests.
Elliott shares, “Earlier in the quarantine, we sold out of veggie boxes within 15 minutes and there’s been some decrease in interest, but you can continue picking up veggie boxes from the farm through the middle of July.” Over 40 youth graduated from spring 2020 programs and throughout the quarantine, Urban Roots continued to pay youth interns, provide produce to them and their families, and to our greater community.
Supporting local agriculture can be inspiring, fun and meaningful. We can vote with our forks, say thank you to our local growers and food providers, and build relationships that strengthen our community. Where we put our money has a big impact and where we eat reflects our values and the kind of community we want to see.
5 Ways to Support Austin Agriculture
- Order a CSA. Community supported agriculture is a farm-fresh box full of seasonal produce with weekly delivery or pick-up.
- Farmer’s Markets. Get to know your farmers while supporting local vendors. Be sure to check out the coffee, pickles, baked goods and more!
- Community Gardens. Get your hands dirty and start growing your own food. It’s a way to share knowledge and meet people in your community.
- Support Small Businesses. Eat at local restaurants. Shop at regional grocery stores. Order local meal prep boxes. Help protect small businesses to ensure we have a robust and local food system.
- Make a Donation. Becoming a monthly donor is a sustainable way to support Urban Roots and other organizations to ensure the future of local agriculture and community.
Sarah Weisfeld is an urban agriculture and sustainability enthusiast. This wellness practitioner, chocolate connoisseur and opportunist finds expression in cooking and dancing. To connect, visit SarahWeisfeld.com or find her on Instagram: @seweisfeld and @butterflycacao. For more information about Urban Roots, visit UrbanRootsATX.org.
Local: Online Resources
for Farmers and Consumers
Purchasing grassfed beef from AGA member farms guarantees that animals raised on those farms were treated humanely and grazed regeneratively. The website provides a searchable database of farms for consumers.
Visitors to the Eat Well Guide website can search over 25,000 hand-picked restaurants, farms, farmers’ markets, and other sources of local, sustainable food.
The eatWILD website features a directory of more than 1,400 farms that produce grass fed meat, eggs and dairy products that have been certified by eatWILD’s criteria.
The Farm and Ranch Freedom Alliance is a national advocacy group for independent family farmers and protects a healthy and productive food supply for American consumers.
GetFreeRange matches farmers to consumers who want to find pastured, grass fed, free range, humanely raised, paleo meats, poultry, eggs and dairy. The organization is nationwide, and the website features a searchable database of farmers by location.
Council for Healthy Food Systems features a resource page for farmers and consumers seeking open farmers’ markets during the COVID-19 outbreak. Visit HealthyFoodSystems.org/resources/covid-19-resources.
LocalHarvest uses location data to connect consumers with local food producers, community-supported agriculture, farmers’ markets, and events in their community.