1) Who does your food come from?

Barn, Czajkowski Farm

Barn, Czajkowski Farm

Barefoot, covered in dirt, playing interviewee while bagging raw chicken, Michael Doctor, director of the Food Bank Farm in Hadley, embodies the farmers of the Pioneer Valley; he is dedicated to the work he does and understands the full affects that buying local has on producers, consumers, and the economy of Massachusetts.

Chicken, Food Bank Farm

Chicken, Food Bank Farm

Michael Doctor, Conway Solomon, and Mike Wissemann work on farms in the Pioneer Valley, so they all have a deep understanding of both the benefits of buying local and the dangers of distancing one’s self from his or her food. People choose locally grown food for lots of reasons. Some consumers are simply  looking for fresher produce, while others are concerned about food safety. Here in the valley, farmers and consumers alike tout their own message of the importance of buying local.

Michael Doctor,  director of the Food Bank Farm in Hadley, says the biggest problem with buying produce from California or Chile is  “you lose a connection to the grower.”

Sign, Food Bank Farm

Sign, Food Bank Farm

To build connections with growers, the Food Bank Farm donates half of its yield to local shelters and soup kitchens, and it sells crop shares through a community supported agriculture (CSA) at, what on average, tends to be less expensive and fresher than buying at the grocery store.  Doctor explains that buying food that is not locally grown dictates a lower standard of quality expected of food.

Jamaican migrant worker, Conway Solomon, picks everything from corn to strawberries on the Czajkowski Farm in  Hadley.  Each spring, he comes to Hadley from Jamaica to work for Joe Czajkowski. Buying local, he says, helps to provide work. Like Michael Doctor, he, too, has an appreciation for fresh food.

Tractor, Food Bank Farm

Tractor, Food Bank Farm

“In Jamaica, we had fresh produce all year long,” says Solomon

Owner of Warner Farm in Sunderland, Mike Wissemann says that it is risky not knowing the source of your food. Wissemann explains that the recent scare about contaminated tomatoes would have been a lot easier to control if people had been eating local tomatoes. It took a long time for authorities to trace the source of the infection.

Bicycle Mill, Food Bank Farm

Bicycle Mill, Food Bank Farm

Wissemann says buying local keeps dollars within the local economy. He says that by not buying local, “you lose your economic basis.” He says that proof of this can be seen in the current economic crisis.

“New England isn’t quite as beat up in this recession because we stay local.”

Wissemann explains that compared to other regions of the country, New England gets most of its products locally. This has greatly strengthened the New England economy so during this recession residents do not feel the hit as hard.

These three farmers and others like them can take solace in the fact that the demand for local food is here to stay. The future of buy local campaigns looks bright because both the green revolution and buying organics remain popular with many Americans. Both these phenomena resulted from the public’s desire to be (or at least appear to be) environmentally friendly, and they paved the way for the up and growing buy local trend.

While environmental conscience proves to be one reason buying local retains its popularity, financial incentives tend to be the most persuasive. For this reason, the rising cost of fuels keeps local food products at the forefront as well.

Tractor Outside UMass, Czajkowski Farm

Tractor Outside UMass, Czajkowski Farm

“Ninety percent of energy associated in vegetables is moving it around,” says Michael Doctor.

The less distance food needs to be transported, the lower the transportation costs. Buying local transfers these savings to the consumer.

In a time of such economic uncertainty, looking locally for food and keeping local dollars within Massachusetts may prove to be both the most lucrative and appetizing decision Massachusetts residents can make.

Field, Food Bank Farm

Field, Food Bank Farm

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One Response to “1) Who does your food come from?”

  1. Wow! You need to submit this to a magazine. The pictures, the story, all fanstastic.

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