It is a wonderfully satisfying trip to get food when you arrive and are greeted by the farmer who not only owns the farm that produces the butter and cheese and vegetables and meat and so forth, but he also works in the field and with his animals daily. You can ask him, “how are the animals doing?” and he will tell you. You can ask him how the grass is coming in. He helps you put your newly purchased food in the bags and thanks you for the purchase.
This is why these days about 90% of my meat, dairy, eggs, vegetables, and fruit comes from CSAs, co-ops, and farmer’s markets. I want to know how the animals are treated before the eggs or milk is collected, before the animals are slaughtered. I want to know what vegetables are fresh and in season. I want to know how they were grown. Meeting the farmer gives me that chance to find out. It also makes me feel safer – I can avoid the massive industrial foodchain that can easily become contaminated (peanuts, anyone? Or the latest warning, sprouts? Before that was tomatoes, peppers, and spinach, not to mention the regular e. coli and salmonella scares…). He is running a smaller farm, so it is easier for him to keep a good handle on quality control. Also, since he is producing less food, if there is an issue, it is likely to be small and since his number of customers is small, it is easily contained. On the rare chance I could get sick from something I ate, it will be easy for me to track down the source of it. I have absolutely no fear for the safety of the food I purchase from farmers. I cannot say the same about the industrial food I purchase.
It is about as real as it gets – having that direct personal connection to the farmer. The only way you could be closer to your food source is if you grew it yourself. Unfortunately, that isn’t an option for me at the moment, living in an apartment in NYC. So I’ll take shaking hands with the farmer instead.