The Island Farming Community

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Dear Islanders,

I’m proud that Grand Island is a farming community. I pushed for agriculture districts to protect local farmers, and I was honored to be included in the Agriculture Plan Steering Committee. This dedication to agriculture is not new, though. Grand Island has a long history of farming.

Farming tradition

Farming became a prominent industry on Grand Island during the later half of the nineteenth century. Farmers struggled to clear the wooded land, but were rewarded: the soil proved ideal for fruit trees. Peaches, apples, pears, and cherries thrived.

During the 1870s and 1880s the farmers here were better off than farmers in surrounding areas, due to the many markets and diversity of crops (everything from hay to beef to fruit) produced on the Island. The Farmers Alliance was established during this time to advance the social and financial aspects of the farmers. Members of the Alliance started a stock company called the Grand Island Creamery Company, which processed aver 5,000 pounds of milk each day.

The cooperative farming community eventually began to decline, due to difficulty of transportation to the mainland and lack of young men to run the farms. But the agriculture movement remains entrenched in the community even today; many residents have farms of varying sizes, and some have been family-run for generations.

My top 4 reasons to eat local

Yes, I know “eat local” is a trend right now that’s subject to plenty of memes, bumper stickers, and t-shirts that range from sincere to funny to offensive. But eating local is important. Here’s why:

SUPPORT THE REGION

Purchasing local food keeps the money in our region, and boosts our economy by ensuring the livelihood of local families. It also preserves green space by keeping farms safe from development.

TASTE THE DIFFERENCE

Fresh, local foods taste better, and they’re better for you. Vine ripened in-season produce is higher in nutrient value than produce picked, packed, shipped, and artificially ripened by ethylene gas. Small farms often use less pesticides than industrial farms, too.

PRESERVE THE ENVIRONMENT

Local food travels less distance from the farm to the consumer, which cuts down on CO2 emissions. The average piece of fruit travels 1,500 miles before it hits your table—local food travels less than 100.  Farmers markets promote sustainable packaging; no styrofoam and plastic wrapping here.

LEARN THE STORY

Farmers are always willing to talk about where and how their products are grown. They can give you recipe suggestions, let you know when crops come into season, and tell you about their farm. Farmers are some of the most salt-of-the-earth, hard-working, and selfless individuals I’ve had the pleasure of meeting, and they’ll make every visit a learning experience. Doesn’t that sound better than a supermarket?

Visit a farmers market today

Many people have gardens of all sizes that explode with bounty this time of year. I even have a friend who grows vegetables in empty milk jugs on a balcony! For those of us who don’t have a green thumb, there are other options.

We’re lucky enough to have many popup markets and stands that offer eggs, veggies, berries, and more. There are two main markets on Grand Island this summer. First, a long-time favorite: Susie’s Fruit Stand—and yes, they sell vegetables too. You can find them at 2121 Grand Island Blvd. (across from Tops) from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday-Friday and 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.

New this year is the Grand Island Farms Inc. Market Mondays at 1841 Whitehaven Rd (at Knights of Columbus). This market is a full-blown event with lots of local vendors, live music, demonstrations, and exhibits. The vendor list is subject to change, but they have had fresh meats, kettle corn, eggs, milk and cheese, flatbread pizzas, honey, produce, jam and jelly, and baked goods. Stop by from 4-7 p.m. each Monday and prepare to be wowed by the variety. I’ll see you there!

Highest regards,

Nate McMurray