Local Food – Good for Family Farms and Ranches, Good for Us All
The local food movement is growing and there are compelling reasons for that. The term “local food” describes food that is harvested close to home, whether that means in your own back yard or on a farm or ranch that’s within a short distance of where you live.
The concept resonates with people who want to protect our natural ecological processes, because the local food movement encourages a cleaner, healthier, more sustainable environment that supports wildlife and humans at the same time. Sustainability is why the Cibolo Nature Center – whose mission is conservation of natural resources through education and stewardship – opened The Herff Farm at the Cibolo as an outdoor classroom where adults and children can learn practical ways to live a more ecologically sustainable lifestyle.
Central to the farm are the new Farmers Market at the Cibolo and Inspiration Garden – both illustrating the idea of local food. The Farmers Market promotes buying food and other products from local producers, and the Inspiration Garden demonstrates various ways to grow your own food organically at home.
Local farmers markets give consumers the chance to buy vegetables and fruit harvested that morning from a nearby field, eggs from chickens that peck around in the farmyard eating worms, baked goods fresh from the oven and meat from livestock that never encounters a feedlot.
“At farmers markets, you can get to know the farmers and ranchers you buy from, ask questions, learn about how our particular weather and soil influence local agricultural practices and become better connected to the land,” said Carolyn Chipman Evans, executive director of the Cibolo Nature Center.
Many people believe that local food even tastes better and is better for you. “When you buy local, you get the freshest possible produce, as opposed to food that has traveled for several days, losing its flavor and vitality,” Chipman Evans said. “Freshly harvested food is more nutritious, too, because once they’re harvested, vegetables and fruits quickly begin losing nutrients.”
Buying locally produced food also conserves energy and reduces the use of fossil fuels. Local Harvest, a non-profit group that promotes locally, sustainably grown foods, notes that most produce in the United States is shipped an average of 1,500 miles before it’s sold.
Local food, however, is not shipped any significance distance. Consequently, local produce is generally available only “in season.” While not as many types of produce will be found at farmers markets as at grocery store chains, the vegetables and fruit that are in season will be fresher, of better quality and more flavorful and nutritious than those shipped from far away and possibly force-ripened with chemical and other treatments.
Since family farmers tend to be good stewards of their land, protecting the soil and the water, local food benefits wildlife and sustains the environment. Family farmers tend to limit, or outright reject, the use of pesticides, chemical fertilizers, hormones and antibiotics. And the wide-open spaces that farms and ranches preserve provide habitat for wildlife and protect the restorative natural beauty of the land for people. Local farmers and ranchers also use far less packaging – if any – on the products they sell, reducing pollution, litter and landfill space.
Of course, buying food and other products locally also helps preserve family farms and ranches and our local heritage. Local Harvest also reports that farmers markets enable farmers to keep 82 cents of each dollar spent by the consumer vs. the roughly 18 cents they receive when their products are sold through grocery chains. In an era when family farmers and ranchers are becoming endangered species themselves, increased profit margins could be critical for these families, helping to preserve their way of life and ours.
The Farmers Market at the Cibolo and Inspiration Garden are open from 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. on Saturdays at The Herff Farm at the Cibolo, 33 Herff Road in Boerne. Learn more online at www.cibolo.org or visit The Farmers Market at the Cibolo on Facebook. Or call (830) 249-4616 (interested vendors may call (830) 431-2280).
Every Saturday in July
Farmers Market at the Cibolo, 33 Herff Road, Boerne
The Farmers Market at the Cibolo features locally produced, high-quality organic or natural foods and products such as vegetables and fruits, heritage lamb, pork and beef, farm-fresh eggs, exclusively created baked goods, artisan chocolates, edible ornamental plants and organic gardening supplies – plus a demonstration organic veggie garden.
Cibolo Summer Camp: July 9-13, 16-20, 23-27, July 30-Aug 3
Check website for complete details www.cibolo.org
Nature Camp: Monday-Friday
9:00 am – 1:30 pm
Nature camp provides children with up close, hands on nature education in the beautiful environment of the Cibolo Nature Center. Campers will explore the whole park while they participate in a nature education curriculum designed by certified science teachers. Campers will leave only their footprints on the ground and their smiles in the hearts of their counselors. They will take with them summer camp memories that will last forever.
1:30 – 4:30 pm
Art Camp represents one of the best investments you can make in your child’s summer! Campers will spend time outside learning to see the beauty of nature and develop artworks based on their discoveries. Each session will provide a comfortable, creative and fun environment for students to develop new techniques and skills while learning to express themselves through art. Class size is limited to 20 for individual attention. On Fridays, family and friends are invited to view an exhibition of the artworks that were created throughout the week.
Kid’s Club: Bubbles, CNC Visitor Center, 140 City Park Road
Double the fun at Kid’s Club down at Cibolo Creek playing with bubbles! We have a special bubble recipe that makes for super strong, super big bubbles! The days in July might be hot but it makes for perfect bubble making weather! Meet up on the porch and then we will hike down to the creek where Ms. Connie and Mr. Josh will have bubbles and fun ready to go. Bring a towel in case you want to take a swim in Cibolo Creek to cool off after a fun morning with bubbles! For “kids” ages 3-103. No drop offs, please. $5 suggested donation per family.
Songs & Stories Concert: Cedar Fever Band, CNC Stage
Cedar Fever is a red-hot band from the Texas Hill Country with wide-ranging roots in country, southern rock, western swing and Texana. They play pack-the-floor two-steps, cry-in-your-beer ballads, hard-driving outlaw country, the best of the old & new, plus great original tunes and musical surprises.
Songs & Stories family- oriented concerts take place on an outdoor stage next to the CNC Visitor Center. Attendees are encouraged to bring lawn chairs and blankets, kids and grandparents, picnic fare and friendly dogs on leashes. Admission to Songs & Stories is $10; $7.50 for CNC members; $5 for those 65 and up; and free for children 12 and under.
Mother Nature’s Storytime: Ladybugs! CNC Visitor Center
How did they get their name? The most popular story of how the ladybug got its name comes from the Middle Ages. In Europe swarms and swarms of insects were ruining crops everywhere. Farmers started praying to the Virgin Mary hoping she could help the crisis. Soon, ladybugs showed up and started eating all of the insects and helped to protect the crops. The farmers called them Beetles of our Lady, because they believed the Virgin Mary had sent them to help. Eventually the name was reduced to Lady Beetles then Ladybugs.
Mother Nature Storytime will be all about these little beneficial critters. Learn more about ladybugs and stay for a fun art activity that you can keep to remind you of the special day. For children ages 3-5 and their caregivers.
Songs & Stories Concert: TX Ladybugs, CNC Stage
The all-female Texas LadyBugs will bring their country-blues-Americana music to the Cibolo Nature Center’s family-friendly outdoor concert series amid the oaks and the evening stars. Proceeds benefit nature-education programs at the non-profit CNC. Bring lawn chairs or blankets, picnics, kids, grandparents and nice dogs on leashes. Admission to Songs & Stories is $10; $7.50 for CNC members; $5 for those 65 and up; and free for children 12 and under.