Local Growers at EarthFair

Joe the Farmer and other local growers will answer questions and provide information on local farming and gardening at the EarthFair in Balboa Park on Sunday, April 22. In addition, Leslie “The Enchanted Gardener” will appeal to children with his Enchanted Garden Mobile and activities, including decorating produce boxes and readings of “The Comeback of Joe the Farmer.” Each page of the book is sponsored by organizations such as the Alliance of Family Farmers and La Milpa Organic Farm. The storytelling will take place at 2 and 4 pm.

The exhibit, titled “Sign a Love Letter to Joe the Farmer and Plant Your Dream,” will be located in the Pan American Plaza (Area #7) near the Children’s Activity Area.

Parents can sign a “Love Letter to Joe” and contribute to help launch the Rodriguez Ranch buyback, the 100-acre organic farm where Joe has farmed since 1985 but now leases. Joe the Farmer represents the challenges of the family farmer working to put food on our tables.

Getting involved

Organizers are also encouraging teachers and parents to apply for grants to support school gardens through the California Instructional School Garden Program and the California Department of Education. Non-competitive grants of up to $5,000 per school site are available. Applications, which must be submitted by April 20, are available on the California School Garden Network web site, www.csgn.org.

Joe the Farmer is one of the local organic farmers whose seasonal produce is featured at the local San Diego Whole Foods Market stores. The Hillcrest store, located at 711 University Avenue, will highlight local products at a “Local Growers and Vendors Day” on Saturday, April 14, from noon to 3pm. As an additional focus on area producers, the store will offer a “Visit the Growers” bus trip to the Tierra Miguel Foundation and Pauma Valley area farms on Saturday, May 5. For information, call (619) 294-2800.

Why local?

Whole Foods Market lists the following benefits of supporting “locally grown”:

A friendly and fresh connection. Supporting local farm production puts a “face” behind the foods we consume and keeps us connected to the seasons, as well as the unique flavor and diversity of local crops.

Local means green. Buying produce from local growers reduces the environmental impact and the costs of transporting product.

Preserving character. Small local farms are a valuable component of a community’s character, helping maintain agricultural heritage, preserve land use diversity, and moderate development.

Crop diversity and quality. Many farmers producing for a local market choose to diversify, growing a variety of crops instead of just one. This is a boon for biodiversity and your palate, since local crops are harvested at their peak of freshness and flavor.

Local Means Green – Again. Minimizing handling and transportation costs gives farmers maximum return on their investment. And most of the profits stay in local hands.