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Agriculture and buying local pros and cons
Dr. Victor Martin

The six to ten day outlook (May 26-30) indicates normal temperatures and normal precipitation for our area. Looking out eight to 14 days (May 28 to June 9) indicates normal precipitation and temperatures here. The drought monitor remains largely unchanged as of this past Tuesday.

With the concern regarding interruptions in the food chain, especially meat and poultry, during the pandemic along with increased interest in buying local to obtain food and for food safety, let’s take a look at that today. Let’s examine the pros and cons or maybe more appropriately the benefits and possible concerns. First the pros of buying local:

• For fruits and vegetables, it’s possible to buy items within hours of being picked. For example with sweet corn 50% of the sugar is normally converted to starch within 24 hours. For sweet corn and other produce, flavor is greatly enhanced.  

• Depending on your location, it is also possible to purchase older and heirloom varieties not available at your local supermarket.

• Once you locate a local source of pork, beef or poultry there can also be advantages. These include not having to purchase water as part of the weight, especially for certain pork cuts and poultry. If you are purchasing a live animal for slaughter, you typically have the opportunity to determine how you want the meat processed according to your preferences. And depending on the situation, you can purchase fresh, never frozen meat and poultry.

• There is also the opportunity for those interested in purchasing organic produce and meats or less processed products to not only buy these types of products but to actually know the producer.

Now the concerns:

• We are used to fresh produce year round and local produce is typically more seasonal, even with greenhouses. Most buy at farmers’ markets and again those are seasonal so for more year round local produce, buyers should cultivate relationships with growers.

• Even though there are many local produce growers, some with some level of greenhouse production, certain produce simply isn’t available here due to climate, expenses, and logistics. And while the number of these enterprises has increased, there simply aren’t enough to supply an entire area. Plus, this supply chain is even more susceptible to the challenges of weather and pests.

• While Kansas is certainly a beef state with a fair number of hogs and chickens, it can be difficult to locate a supply of locally grown and processed meat. This difficulty likely increases as we move back to “normal.”

• For meat and poultry, you need a local processor. Most live within a reasonable distance of one, however, most are smaller operation and not equipped to handle a large volume of animals for slaughter and processing. And often for beef, or even a whole hog, many simply don’t have the freezer capacity for a whole steer or hog. So it’s good to go in with others to share costs and the product.

• While there are certainly health/disease concerns with supermarket produce and meats, there are health and safety protocols in place.  Care should be taken in handling and preparation of locally grown produce.

Dr. Victor L. Martin is the agriculture instructor/coordinator for Barton Community College. He can be reached at 620-792-9207, ext. 207.