Recently, at the farmers market, a woman rushed over to me excitedly, seeking out the vendor with the fresh eggs that her friend had told her about.
“She told me the yolks were deep yellow, and the eggs were the best she had ever tasted! How does he grow them?” she went on to ask.
As I explained the process of raising chickens on pasture, I smiled to myself. One small victory for local family farms. One small victory for conservation.
My conversation with her made me more aware just then, that while Ohio is rich in natural resources, a great portion of its population feels no connection to the land, and it can seem difficult, if not impossible sometimes, to bridge the gap.
The truth is, I know the farm where those eggs came from. But more than that, I know that countless hours have been spent there, designing and installing conservation practices, with countless more spent working and re-working the grazing system again and again, to find a good fit, because it’s a work in progress.
I know the farm family and how hard they work to get their message out, to promote conservation and to sell fresh products off the farm, products made possible through steps taken to treat the land and animals in such a way that promotes sustainability.
I know the challenges they face bridging the gap. I know, too, that there is no better time than now to buy locally grown and produced fare, and it has never been more important to keep farmland in sustainable production.
Like the harvests the season produces, Ohio is ripe with potential to help people make the connection to the land once again.
It is a connection that conservation partners have been encouraging for years, and there is no better time than now to help make it.
Whether it is providing a venue for local farmers to sell or market their product, talking with local economic development authorities about the importance of agriculture and conservation to the economy, purchasing products directly from a local farm, or simply explaining the process of raising chickens on pasture to an inquisitive consumer, the connection is waiting to be made.
Local food initiatives have the potential to extend beyond the benefit of simply providing fresh food. They can spur economic development; encourage economic diversity and tourism; and ensure the sustainability of natural resources.
They have the potential to increase awareness of agriculture and food production, connecting people one again to the farm and how food is produced there.
They promote agricultural sustainability, keeping farmers in business by allowing them to make a living on the farm, while encouraging them to retain farmland in production.
Local foods initiatives protect local heritage and culture and instill pride in our communities. They foster appreciation, attract young farmers and promote a better quality of life.
And I realized then, as I spoke with that excited consumer, that for one brief moment, the connection was made.
Every conservation practice installed, every grazing management plan written, every small piece of advice given or tried culminated in the ultimate victory — the work paid off — the message was heard.