2023 Gifts from farms - gift ideas that come straight from local farms
Welcome to my 2023 holiday Gifts-From-Farms guide! I’ll cover how to find small farms that have great items, and provide some suggestions for people on your list!
Why should you buy direct from small farms, anyway?
While the amount of farmland owned by large and small family farms is shrinking in the US, the majority is thankfully still owned by families and not corporations. HOWEVER, when it comes time for those farmers to harvest and sell, the market is dominated by a few corporations (ConAgra, Kellogg, Perdue, just to name a few), which feed into a skewed distribution system, which reduces the earning power for many medium to large farms. According to USDA data, much of the price you pay in a grocery store does not go to the actual farmer. Buying direct from farms helps to change this broken system.
But it’s not just about supporting small and family farms. When you take the time to buy direct, the benefits for the consumer abound. Research shows that recently harvested produce, harvested when ripe, has more vitamins and nutrients than national food system produce that was harvested underripe and held in transport/storage for long periods of time (which is what you usually find in grocery stores). Small farms often free-range animals, which leads to reduced need for chemicals and antibiotics to keep the animals healthy, and less stress hormones in the meat compared to animals held in crowded, unnatural indoor conditions, like chicken houses and cattle feed-lots. Buying direct from farmers is of course better for the local economy; the money you spend goes right back into your local area instead of off to CEOs and shareholders of large corporations. The environment is often better off too - small farms tend to use less herbicides and pesticides, and participate in practices that increase the quality of the land and soil. Most importantly, when you buy direct from family farms, the quality of the products is often far superior than ‘grocery store’ products. Not just better for you as mentioned above, but better flavor!
Ok, but that’s food. What about other gifts?
Farms are more than veggies and meat! Opportunities for great gift ideas can be found on your local farms! Many farmers, especially small farms, turn extra produce into canned pantry items like pickles and jelly, some make bread with their own wheat, or even make beauty products like soap and lotion from oils and fats. These items make great gifts that your loved one won’t soon forget, and your purchase does double-duty by supporting small family farms.
How to find farms in your area
https://www.localharvest.org/ is probably the best place to start with finding farms and farmers markets in your area. Every now and then the listings are outdated, so be sure to visit the farm’s page or google search for the specific farm to find the updated website and info.
The USDA Local Food Directories website is a good place to find medium-size farms that sell direct to consumer. After entering search terms, you can click the details on each farm to see contact info and websites
The National Farmer’s Market Listing page is a good source for finding farmer’s markets in your area. Once you find the markets, it may be better to then google search the name of the market as websites on this page can sometimes be outdated. Once you find the market, if you don’t want to visit the market to look for gifts, use the market’s webpage or facebook listing to see details on the farm vendors, then go to their websites to purchase directly.
Google is of course definitely useful here, simply search “Farmer’s market near me” or “farm near me” to find farm listings.
2023 Gifts from farms ideas list:
The Spicy lover
Give them something besides hot sauce! Shameless plug here - Blue Ridge Pepper Patch carries all kinds of spicy condiments! Wow your friends with gifts of spicy apple butter, sweet pickled peppers, hot honey, and more! We ship nationwide, but some searching might reveal local farms in your area that are doing the same. Still looking for hot sauce? Some farms do make hot sauce from their own produce, though it may be a bit more difficult to find since these products usually require extra testing and permits to produce and sell legally, depending on each state’s regulations. Kitchen Garden Farm is just one option for hot sauce and other spicy products, that also ships nationwide.
The Beauty Boss
Now, some people who love to get the newest beauty products are going to just want the latest thing from Ulta or Nordstrom. But, if you think your gift recipient might like something a little different, beauty and personal care products are usually easy to find direct from farms! Goat’s milk beauty products are a common option and are usually superior to store-bought personal care products. Look for lotions, soaps and hand creams incorporating naturally moisturizing goats’ milk. We’re big fans of Ithika acres goat’s milk lotion, with shipping nationwide. Or, simply search google for “goat farm” near me to look for products for local pickup in your area. But it’s more than goat’s milk - tallow salves, beeswax lip balms, and lavender-infused products can also be found direct from small farms. For example, our farm friends at The Family Bee’s-Nees supply the local market with beeswax lip balm tinted with hibiscus, as well as super soothing tallow skin salves and elsewhere in NC Lavender farms have wonderful lavender-based beauty products in their on-farm boutique. There are likely similar offerings from farms in your area.
If you’ve got a foodie on your gift list, buying direct from farms is a no-brainer. High quality goat cheese, artisan breads, cured meats (ex. https://fatherscountryhams.com/ ), nuts (ex https://pleasant-hill-pecans.square.site/) small-batch pickles and fruit spreads - you won’t have trouble finding items for this gift-type. Collect items from different farms, and make them a gift basket!
The Home Chef
Forget Omaha steaks. Small farms are popping up that offer overnight shipping of specialty meats like ostrich, elk, emu and more. In NC, Amaroo hills is a popular source for emu and ostrich (among other poultry) and ships nationwide! Baking mixes and seasonings incorporating dried herbs grown on the farm are also great ideas. Sunshine Lavender Farm has lavender baking mixes and ships nation wide. Even flour doesn’t have to come from the grocery store - if you’ve got someone into making bread and baking, Carolina ground is a cooperative of different farms coming together to offer specialty and artisan flours nationwide. Checkout Tidewater Grain for farm-direct rice! These are just a few options we love in our local area, and there are sure to be more in yours.
Out of state
Search for farms in their area that offer gift cards! Or, purchase them a CSA subscription form their local farm. Even flower farms offer subscriptions. These are the kind of gifts your loved one can enjoy well beyond the holiday season.
Home decor and craft supplies
Admittedly, these kind of gifts will be a little harder to search for when buying direct from farms, since most advertising focus by farms is for the food. And searching google will often return results for typical mass-manufactured items. BUT don’t despair! Many farms offer handicrafts as home decor from supplies on their farm, especially in the holiday months for gift purchases. In North Carolina, home decor made from tobacco sticks (special-sized pieces of wood used back-in-the-day to hand and dry tobacco) and signs made from old tobacco-barn wood are to be found in the right places. Other wood signs, cutting boards, and trays are sometimes made by farmers from trees grown on their farm. Since farmers often create these items as seasonal gifts, you may not see them listed on their website, so give the farm or farmer’s market a visit!
The Grill master
Aside from all of the meat options (some mentioned above) many small farms offer firewood when they harvest trees on their farm, and also possibly smaller chunks of specialty woods (like hickory and cherry) intended for grilling. Nut farms (pecan, walnut) also may sell the cracked shells intended for smoking meats. And of course, cutting boards and trivets made from on-farm wood are great gifts for the griller in your life.
And this is just the start! Whether you visit farms looking for gifts or shop farmer’s websites online, the gifts you give will be unique, thoughtful, and will support small farms. It’s almost like giving two gifts in one!