By David Lias
There’s plenty to celebrate this week.
The Vermillion 15-16 Teener team is competing in the state tournament in Harrisburg.
The Clay County Fair kicked off its three-day run on Thursday.
And, this is National Farmers Market Week.
A decade or so ago, that special designation of this week likely would have gone unnoticed in the community. The thought of a regular farmers market in Vermillion was, at best back then, a dream.
That dream has come true, thanks to the hard work of a lot of local people. Since early spring, the Vermillion Area Farmers Market has met in a pleasant grassy area of the Clay County Fairgrounds, right at the corner of Cherry and High streets.
On Thursday afternoon, it seemed only fitting that as market vendors and customers celebrate National Farmers Market Week, they also had the opportunity to have their regular weekly market be part of the opening day of the county fair. Both kids and adults who were eager to check out all of the county fair exhibits also had a chance to visit with market vendors and view and purchase fresh apples, corn, squash, tomatoes, potatoes, baked goods, and more.
You hear a lot of talk lately about the attempts to set up “big ag” operations throughout the Midwest, including in South Dakota. Gov. Dennis Daugaard and the state Department of Agriculture hope to lure large dairy facilities to our state.
What one doesn’t hear much about is how farmers markets are currently flourishing across the nation, and the Vermillion market is no exception.
According to the latest Census of Agriculture, direct sales of food products from farmers to individual consumers rose by nearly 50 percent between 2002 and 2007. Last year, local food sales grew to nearly $7 billion, according to industry estimates.
Also, according to a news release from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), local food and direct marketing opportunities, including farmers markets, are one of the fastest growing segments of agriculture.
Sam Heikes is happy to be a part of that growth. He’s not a vendor at the Vermillion Area Farmers Market; he has chosen instead to operate Heikes Family Farm, located on the northern outskirts of the community. He provides fresh produce from his own market at the farm, and to local consumers on a contract basis.
“This spring, USDA released a statistic that said the number of small producers that are selling their produce direct to consumers in the last three years has tripled nationwide,” he said. “There is momentum behind ‘buy fresh, buy local,’ and what consumers want is to know who is growing their food and how it is being grown.”
One thing that can’t be overlooked is that, during a week designated to celebrate the marketing of locally grown fruits, vegetables, meats and other products, national news media have found time to devote attention to, of all things, test tube meat.
Yes, the world’s first test-tube burger, made from lab-grown meat, was cooked and eaten in London earlier this week. It basically was what appeared to be a hamburger patty made not of hamburger, but of 20,000 strips of meat grown from cow stem cells.
I’ll pass on that, thank you, and keep eating hamburger made the old-fashioned way – from a steer. Along with the “real” beef patty, throw in some fresh, locally grown lettuce, tomato and pickles, and I’m all set.
Such a meal is certainly worth celebrating.