Grow Local-Buy Local Has Economic Potential
Wednesday, February 13, 2013
Growing and marketing foods locally has possibilities for the agricultural economy in the area. At the same time, this program will not replace the food growing potential from the larger family farms in northeastern Ohio. Rather, growing and marketing locally will compliment the larger farms and both will contribute to the economy of the area. It is good to see the growing interest in this program.
The local area is one of small farms with an average acreage of under 150 acres. At the same time, there are the larger family farms that are highly efficient. One of the potential uses for the smaller farms is to get involved in a program where they grow or raise products on a small scale and market them locally through farmer's markets, contracts with local grocery stores, community sharing programs (CSA) and roadside or established markets.
A look back in time might help the community in developing a local growing-marketing program. Back in the 1930s, ï¿½40s and ï¿½50s, there were many local fruit and vegetable growers in the Ashtabula-Lake-Geauga area. Routes 20 and 84 were lined with orchards and markets, along with other highways in the area. It was a thriving business.
Then, the orchards, strawberry patches and vegetable fields gradually disappeared. What happened? One thing was adverse weather. A couple of bitter below zero winters back in the 1950s destroyed the peach and some of the apple orchards.
Another factor was an improved economy that provided jobs for people that were better paying than managing an orchard or vegetable field and owners could not afford to hire labor to help during planting and harvest. For example, grape growers who normally hired homemakers for fall harvest couldn't get them so they had to invest in mechanical harvesters or go out of business because their profits were not all that great.
Another factor was the construction of interstate highways and fast, less expensive air transportation that could bring fruits and vegetables quickly from long distances.
Therefore, local farmers found other work or cut way back on their operations. Can they come back? Sure, given the right interest and dedication to producing and marketing quality products.
Some interest is noted in getting a local organization going that will encourage growers and small farmers to get involved. They need a sound marketing plan before going too far with the growing or producing idea. They need to know where they can sell their products and make a reasonable profit.
Quality products are a must for any business to survive and expand. Growers and those with animal products need to listen to their customers to find out what they are looking for in both quality and kinds of products they want.
Another concern is available labor at the right time to get crops planted and harvested or livestock raised and ready for market. There are several equipment manufacturers that are making smaller equipment adapted to small farming that can make the work much easier and more efficient. But, they cost money. The operation has to be big enough to support the investment.
Many things can be grown or raised in this area and the potential markets are available if developed. Crops like small fruits, vegetables, eggs, small animal meats, greenhouse plants and use of hoop houses to get products to market earlier and more are all possible.
So, those interested in the local growing-marketing program need to get organized and move ahead. Help is available through the local Extension Office if the interest is there.
Parker is an independent agricultural writer.