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Supporting our Farmers’ Markets is a healthy choice for us and helps independent farmers

Editor's column
By: Carol Feineman, Editor
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Adrian Rodriguez puts in long summer work days. Six days a week, he works from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m.

He sells fruit and vegetables for his family’s farm, Rodriguez Brothers Ranch in Watsonville, at six weekly farmers’ markets located between Nevada and Sacramento, including the Downtown Lincoln Farmers’ Market that opened last Thursday. The downtown market is at F Street between 5th and 6th streets and Beermann Plaza.

All together, the Rodriguez Brothers Ranch sets up at 35 farmers’ markets between Carson City and Marina each week.

Rodriguez’s work day begins in Watsonville at 7 a.m., as he loads the truck with just-picked artichokes, cauliflower, broccoli, beets, carrots, celery, strawberries, blackberries and goldenberries.

Then, on for example Thursdays, he has about a three-hour drive to Lincoln.

After the market closes at 8 p.m., Rodriguez packs up any remaining produce and heads back to Watsonville for another three-hour drive.

This has been his summer routine for years. The rest of the year, Rodriguez helps get the field ready for the summer crops with the other workers.

 “Workers at the farm put in 10 hours a day, six days a week (in the field),” Rodriguez said. “It’s very hard. It’s very labor-intensive.”

But Rodriguez doesn’t mind the 16-hour days, as long as he has customers who appreciate the often grueling efforts of the 25 farm employees. And he wants “to do my part” for his family.

 Fifty percent of farmers selling at farmers’ markets derive at least half their revenue from these venues, according to the Society for Public Health Education in Washington, D.C.

Rodriguez’s family does not farm for the money. They make a modest income, if that.

“Everything we make goes back to the farm,” Rodriguez said.

Farmers have huge expenses to cover, from equipment repairs to water to labor.

But all the challenges pale when Rodriguez can offer better produce to shoppers who appreciate quality.

“Everything is a lot fresher than in the stores,” Rodriguez said. “Everything here today is picked this morning at 7 o’clock. It has more flavor and tastes better.”

And it’s also arguably much healthier, as 54 of his family’s 70 acres have become organic.

“Organic sells more. Everything is transitioning to organic because everything tastes better,” Rodriguez said.

Shopping at farmers’ markets is a beneficial way for residents to take home delicious and fresh produce, according to Elaine Auld, CEO of the Society for Public Health Education.

“Getting plenty of fruits and vegetables helps families live healthier lives and reduces the likelihood of chronic disease,” Auld said. “Lack of nutritious foods puts people at high risk for diabetes, cardiovascular disease and obesity.”

And whether the farm is successful depends on the weather each season. There’s no way to know, as workers start preparing the fields, what the outcome will be in a few months.

 “It’s hard being a farmer. It’s very difficult with all the weather we’ve been having, from hot to cold, different climate changes,” Rodriguez said at last week’s opening Downtown Lincoln Farmers’ Market. “Weather controls whether we have produce for the season.”

Rodriguez hopes that the Downtown Lincoln Farmers’ Market attracts a few hundred residents.

“Come buy fresh produce. That’s all we ask for,” Rodriguez said.

Unfortunately for Rodriguez, the June 22 Downtown Lincoln Farmers’ Market is canceled because of the triple-digit temperatures. He and his workers can’t take the day off, when temperatures are high so this week's closure will hurt their hard-earned income.

Hopefully, next week, Lincoln residents will be able to support Rodriguez and the other farmers at the weekly farmers’ market. There’s also the weekly Farmers’ Market at Lincoln Hills, with many of the same vendors, from 8 a.m. to noon Wednesdays at Orchard Creek Lodge fitness parking lot, 965 Orchard Creek Lane.

By supporting these farmers, we’re also being health-conscious. The benefits to us are priceless.