Economic crisis creates sustainable opportunities as rising grocery prices drive shoppers to local growers. Farmers markets have been growing steadily over the last few years but with the current economic crisis and a deficit train wreck on the horizon, business is booming. Local growers are cashing in on the increased demand for produce and some are even finding it difficult to keep stock on hand.
Patsy Hicks, of Patsy’s Herb Farm has been a vendor at the farmers market located at the Agri-Center in Memphis, TN for 16 years. Patsy told me, “We wanted to stay a small mom and pop business but this has proved difficult the last couple years as our business has grown beyond what we can supply.”
Patsy’s Herb Farms grows a mind boggling array of herbs and spices that set one’s mind spinning and the mouth to watering. I asked Patsy if she has seen an increase in demand for organic produce.“In talking with customers we found that most do not understand what exactly certified organic produce is. They just want to be convinced that the product that they are buying has been produced in a clean natural, chemical free manner. They realize that in order to accomplish this they need to get to know their grower. Certified organic production is a very complicated, time consuming and costly process but that does not mean that we are any less particular in our sustainable organic production. We do not use lead based chemicals on any of our plants and practice all natural methods for controlling pests.”
I spoke to with a wide demographic of shoppers who expressed that it was a combination of lower prices and fresher produce that had brought them to buy and most all agreed it was a much nicer atmosphere to shop. They felt they could browse and relax without feeling rushed. One thing I found most intriguing was that the majority of the people that I spoke with had driven over six and some as many as eighteen miles to shop despite the current economic crisis woes.
Starter plants for home gardening have also increased in demand as the weather has become more amiable for gardeners to be outside. I was not surprised to see Patsy’s heirloom tomatoes were a hit with shoppers.
“Heirloom tomatoes come from the seeds that are saved from original plants, some dating back over a hundred years. Unlike hybrid tomatoes the seeds are as nature intended. They have not been genetically altered or modified in any way.” Patsy credits her close friend Mary Caley for teaching her a lot about herbs and the two of them can be found most Saturdays at the farmers market talking to customers and answering questions about everything from growing to cooking.
“The Stevia plant is an all natural sweetener. With so much concern over obesity and diabetes in our society these days Stevia is a natural choice. It has no calories and does not affect your blood sugar. I make a liquid by steeping the stevia in water and keeping it in my refrigerator to sweeten a lot of foods with.”
“I want people to get excited about using herbs themselves, growing them, experimenting with different types and maybe learning to garden for the first time. We all need to be more knowledgeable about growing our own food.”
Devastating storms and record flooding have decimated the crop outlook this year as hundreds of thousands of acres have been affected. Home gardening may indeed be the best viable alternative for families looking to make ends meet during an expanding economic crisis.
With everything from herbs, garden plants, flowers, gourmet baby veggies and micro salads, Patsy’s Herb Farm is destined to remain a Shelby county favorite for years to come.
Copyright 2011 Greg Traver
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