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Local Column

Heimerman: Farmers in peril, but local initiatives help

A buddy of mine and I were chatting over the weekend about what we’d do if we were forced to enter another line of work.

Naturally, I said I’d like to go into farming or gardening. I love getting my hands dirty. Nothing pleases me more than seeing dirt under my daughters’ nails as we teach them to plant in our garden, or as they help me in my doomed effort to reseed our law.

And hey, you know, what job is under greater duress than a journalist’s? A farmer’s, methinks. We can smell our own.

Exhibit A: Most of the farmers markets in DeKalb County will not operate this year, and one of them conked out last year, because of general lack in interest – from vendors and consumers alike.

Exhibit B: In spending time with farmers the past few years, I’ve learned that they’ve got to be right on the cutting edge in order to move their product, let alone make a profit, considering that commodity prices are through the floor.

Exhibit C: Courtesy of President Donald Trump and the tariff he’s imposed on steel and aluminum imports from China, local farmers should be worried that China will make good on its threat to retaliate with a 25 percent tariff on U.S. imports. This could doom multi-generation farms throughout the Midwest, including in DeKalb County.

I wish I could say to farmers to put faith in the president, that his long-term plan will benefit soybean and grains farmers, which make up the bulk of farms around here.

I can’t, however.

In the meantime, we can’t stop growing – literally and proverbially. I got into gardening because my wife convinced me 10 years ago that veggies are tasty and amazing, and they make you feel great. Correct on all fronts.

Now, nothing warms this jaded old heart more than watching my kids try Brussels sprouts, spinach and broccoli, and actually enjoy them.

Going back to Exhibit A, I’m encouraged to learn the DeKalb farmers market is going to match Link card users’ dollars spent (more coming in the weekend edition), starting when the market opens June 7. That means consumers with a Link card can double their spending power, as Jessica Antonacci, events manager with the DeKalb Chamber of Commerce, so eloquently put it. Goodness knows we’ve got a low-income population here in DeKalb County. Thanks to the grant that makes the Link card program possible, parents can get good food that their family needs at a discount. How cool is that?

As much as I flinch when I spend about 50 percent more on fresh produce at a farmers market than I would at Hy-Vee, I can rest assured that the local market’s goods are fresh, and that the money stays here, where my family lives, and where I’ll continue to put my money for years to come.

Here’s hoping initiatives geared to help out low-income families will, in turn, drive more business for farmers, will help buoy the local agricultural market.

With the troubling climate on a federal level, we as an ag community need all the help we can get.

• Christopher Heimerman is the editor at the Daily Chronicle. He can be reached at cheimerman@shawmedia.com.

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