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Buy a tomato: Support your local growers

As the dog days of summer hit their stride after Independence Day, now is the best time to enjoy the produce our state has to offer. This is the time when we come into some of the best fruits and vegetables our state can grow.

Many of us are already reaping the benefits of our own gardens. The tomatoes have been coming in fast, and the squash and zucchini are so plentiful that we end up giving full buckets away. There is nothing like absolutely fresh produce to make any meal better.

For those of us with a brown thumb, we can still get that fresh taste and do our part to help the state economy, the environment, and support our family farms by buying locally grown produce.

The roadside stand is as Alabama as barbeque and pine trees. On just about every state highway and byway you’ll find a family owned stand providing what is often freshly picked from the local land. You’ll often find an Alabama Department of Agriculture and Industries sign at these stands that says, “Alabama Grown,” and “Buy Fresh, Buy Local,” ensuring quality and freshness that can’t be beat.

If you can’t get to a stand, the state agriculture department and the state farmers market authority have been working to bring the stand to you through farmers markets. There are dozens of these markets across the state, located in just about every county. They provide an excellent way of getting Alabama produce to local consumers.

There’s a farmer’s market outside Tractor Supply in Demopolis every Friday.

Buying local produce helps our state economy. When you spend your money with an Alabama farmer, the money goes back into other local businesses. Keeping our dollars close to home can be a significant step in getting our state economy back on track.

Buying local produce also helps keep our family farms. Agriculture is a multi-billion dollar business for our state, with large-scale production of everything from cotton to soybeans, beef to chicken, which adds numerous jobs and is a critical part of the state economy. However, large-scale agriculture has been the very thing endangering the small local farm. Family farms have been under tremendous pressure from consolidation in agriculture, and are often hurt by unfair foreign competition too.

Family farms deserve to be saved as a way of life, as a sustainable form of agriculture, and as a part of our communities. One of the best ways to protect them is to buy directly from them. It is also the tastiest.

Jason Cannon is the publisher of The Demopolis Times.