Our cherries from last year...
1. Pick your own type farms: Pick Your Own
There are thousands of these type establishments all over the U.S., and many are listed at the link above. Around here the most popular kinds are apple, peach, berries of all kinds, and corn. There are also some that have pick your own vegetable type farms too, but we are normally pretty set on that stuff. But last year we went and picked peaches, apples, and blueberries with the girls. This really serves several purposes: it's fun for the family and the girls especially to pick their own goodies, it teaches them where there food comes from, it supports a local family farm, typically it is cheaper than the grocery store because you are buying in bulk and doing the work yourself, you know exactly what has been done to that food as far as chemicals, pesticides etc. and lastly it provides a crop that you may not have any of yourself. We have 2 apple trees, and we got maybe 2 gallons total off of them, which was not enough for all the applesauce, apple juice, frozen apples, dried apples etc. that I wanted.
2. CSA's or Community Supported Agriculture: Local Harvest
These come in many shapes and forms. Please visit the link above to learn about the ones available near you. The premise is that you pay a share or a membership fee and periodically you receive a basket, box of bag of produce from the farm or organization. These range from every week, to a few times a year. They also have a huge range of products that can be put in it. Vegetables, fruits, eggs, milk, cheese and herbs are common, and there are also some around here that put in things like grass fed beef, local organic chicken, even farm raised catfish fillets, local organic rice and wheat. These are typically picked up at a set location at a set time, although some do deliver. I love that you are supporting a local farmer(s) and you get what is in season each and every week. I've never bought one for myself because we typically grow a lot of what they offer, however I have purchased a few as gift certificates for different people, my favorite time being for a friend of mine that lives out of state that had a new baby , and this particular one DELIVERED! So this is something to certainly look into if you may not have a variety of things you are growing or want to branch out your pallet a bit.
3. Locally Grown
I have to say that we use this one almost weekly. You can go to the link above and see what is happening around your area. Here it is set up for once a week, and you pick up on Friday evenings. This consists of MANY local farmers , large and small with a variety of different products. They have an online ordering system showing what is available for that week and you can shop from home, then go pick up your goodies. Unlike a CSA, you buy only the things you want each week, and you can go weeks or months without buying anything if you want. This is where we get our milk and cheese. The dairy is just about 20 miles from our home and we can talk to the farmer about what she gives and doesn't give the cows she uses. It's a small dairy and I'm happy to support it. Plus the cheese is outstanding. The cheese is typically $4 a pound, which honestly isn't anymore expensive than say Kraft or Cabot at the store. You make one payment and then they pay all the different farmers based on what they sold that week. As a seller you can sell every week, or just when you have an abundance of something. I also like our local one because the have farm tours regularly where you can go visit the farms you are buying from and know EXACTLY what they are doing and how they treat your food. Please look into this, LOVE IT.
4. Farmers Markets
I won't go into much detail on these because most of you know about them, however I will say to please make sure that they are LOCAL. Just because a farmer has a truck of watermelons, does not mean they are local. There has been instances in the past when people have driven to Walmart and bought all the watermelons and then sold them for $2 more at the farmers market. Search for Local Farmers Markets, or those that are certified LOCAL for your state. Here we have a Certified one, where the Market employees go to your farms and make sure you are actually growing what you are selling before you are allowed to set up a table. Thank you! I want to buy local. The thought of buying tasteless apples from China, when my neighboor grows the best Black Apples I've found is not appealing to me.
5. Community Gardens
These are becoming popular in urban settings especially. This is when a shared space can be utilized by community members and the produce is shared at harvest. It can work where you volunteer a certain amount of hours then you get a certain amount of produce, or where everyone gets their own little plot and you are responsible for that and get to take everything home from that plot. I've seen it work many ways, and it is a great idea. When I went to California last year I saw a ton of these, especially around the San Francisco area, and was really inspired.