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Flowers, Fruits, and Frass

Find joy in holiday gift giving while supporting your local farm community

A holiday wreath hangs on red barn doors

Imagine owning and running the business of your dreams, and not being in control of one of the most stressful aspects of a business: the cost of production. For many, this situation is not a fantasy, it is a reality.

According to recent USDA data, farm sector production expenses for farmers both large and small are almost 18 percent higher on average compared with this time last year.

In an environment of 40-year-high-inflation, farmers are experiencing increased risk in two of the five USDA-recognized categories of risk:

  • Financial Risk: the result of rising interest rates, restricted access to credit, employees, and debt
  • Price/Market Risk: uncertainty surrounding input cost and prices farmers will receive for goods

The three other major categories of farm risk that can pose a risk to physical, mental, spiritual, or financial health are Human or Personal Risk; Production Risk; or Institutional Risk.

Farmers cannot avoid these risk factors that are ingrained in farming. But while the agriculture industry is working through a tough year, the community can find ways to support their neighborhood farmer. When headed out on the roads, slow down for farm equipment and leave extra time for safe travel. During harvest, farmers are in the fields from sunrise to sunset. Find time to connect with the farmers in your family or community circles by delivering a meal to the field.

For many local farmers and producers, continuing their operation next year depends on market conditions now and your local dollar can help their bottom line. For holiday gifts this season, focus your spending power on Main St. by seeking out markets and small businesses in your community that impact the local agriculture community. Or arrange a delicious meal for family and friends featuring dishes that use local ingredients to encourage loved ones to shop locally, too.

Whether selecting a high-quality ingredient to make that homecooked dish stand out or seeking a perfect gift for a special friend or loved one, a Central Illinois producer or vendor is a source of unique and high-quality items.

Consider this list of memorable items available at Central Illinois holiday markets, to prepare your shopping list:

  • Cakes, pastries, breads, cookies and other baked items
  • Soaps and candles
  • Teas and spices
  • Assorted root vegetables (beets, carrots, sweet potatoes)
  • Assorted winter squash (butternut, acorn, delicata, or hubbard)
  • Alpaca wool handknit products
  • By the cut: pork, beef, lamb and other meats
  • Wooden, hand-cut and painted figurines or puzzles
  • Aromatic beauty and body products
  • Succulents and other plants to beautify the indoors during winter

This holiday season give a gift that was made or grown with love. With every purchase, your holiday gift list will grow shorter and the community will grow stronger.

Photo Credit: "Country Christmas Greetings (Explore" by Olin Gilbert is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Nick Frillman is a Local Foods and Small Farms Educator serving Livingston, McLean, and Woodford Counties. A fourth-generation graduate from University of Illinois, Frillman has a B.A. with a double major of Political Science and Spanish and a M.S. in Crop Science with a focus on crop production. Before joining Illinois Extension, Frillman completed a field season of CSA and farmers’ market-style production at a small “beyond-organic” vegetable farm in Sandy, Oregon.

ABOUT THE EDITOR: Liz Repplinger is the Agriculture and Natural Resources Program Coordinator serving Livingston, McLean, and Woodford Counties. A Bloomington-Normal native, Liz earned a B. A. in Animal Science and an M.S. in Animal Science from Illinois State University. She has enjoyed contributing to the multiple facets of Extension including previous support of the 4-H Youth Development Program as a program coordinator and current support of Unit and Statewide Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Initiatives.