This article is sponsored by Organic Valley. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas. 

I fell in love with my local farmer’s market after moving to Nebraska during high school. There were stalls and stalls of fresh fruit, grass-fed dairy products and, of course, enough corn to give the Cornhusker State its nickname. As a budding food enthusiast, I took my time at each booth—not only to taste any available samples, but also to chat for a few minutes with the people selling their products. 

Although I no longer live in the Midwest, those summer days at the farmer’s market made a big impression on me: It was clear to me the passion that family farmers and ranchers have for their work runs deep. Not to mention, food grown with love simply tastes better.

That’s why I’m still dedicated to supporting family farms whenever possible, even if I can’t leisurely walk around the farmer’s market as often as I used to. But, thankfully, that’s not the only way to buy from independent farmers. By doing so, we are directly supporting people who give back to their families, communities and wider economies. 

It’s also not mutually exclusive to support a family farmer and buy from a nationally available brand. Case and point: Organic Valley, my favorite source for pasture-raised, organic dairy products, is a cooperative, not a corporation. That means the company is actually owned by 1,800 small family farmers across the country.

Here are a few ideas for supporting family farmers wherever you live—while passing the taste and health benefits along to your own family.

Rediscover Your Grocery Store

Farmer’s markets may be a great way to have one-on-one time with farmers, but it is possible to support them (and enjoy the delicious food) while shopping at a grocery store, too. At my store, for example, I can always depend on Organic Valley products. 

By reaching for Organic Valley milk or butter in my local grocery store, I’m truly buying from farmers who are committed to raising food the right way. And, as a mom who is committed to raising my kids the right way with healthy diets, I appreciate that Organic Valley cows get nutritious diets without any antibiotics or GMOs. These health benefits trickle down to us—and the ethical way the food is produced simply makes it taste better, too. 

I also see evidence on a daily basis of how good it is for my family to spend time outside. We are simply happier and healthier when we get to soak in the fresh air and sunshine. Shouldn’t the same go for cows? I’m definitely not my best self when I’m cooped up indoors, so I can only imagine that happy cows that get outdoor time produce dairy that tastes better. That’s why it’s important to me that Organic Valley farmers are committed to giving their cows ample time outside. 

Shop in Season

My days at the farmer’s market helped me realize the dramatic taste difference between a sun-ripened summer tomato and one served in the middle of winter. By aiming to cook meals that use seasonal ingredients as much as possible, the food not only tastes so much richer, but it’s also easier to source the produce close to home. The USDA helps break down seasonal produce in a handy guide, which is a nice way to discover some new food ideas.

I’ve found that the food doesn’t even have to originate within my state to still taste better. What matters the most is that the ingredients were grown or raised with care and without pesticides, hormones or other chemicals that are too often used to mask the shortcomings of the food. 

Explore CSA Boxes

Outside of going to the farmer’s market, it’s possible to buy directly from farmers in many parts of the country through Community Support Agriculture (CSA) boxes. In many cases, these boxes are available on a subscription basis during certain times of the year and will be filled with hand-picked produce items. It’s even a fun way to discover new ingredients that you may not otherwise pick up at the store. (This was why I made my first-ever strawberry and rutabaga pie!) 

Learn the Importance of Family Farms

Keeping food close to home makes a difference on so many levels. I love that Organic Valley makes an effort to connect buyers with their farmers through the online Find Your Farmer tool. Just like when I used to chat with farmers while looking around the market, I can now read stories of the people behind the scenes at Organic Valley. In many cases, these are people who come from a long line of farmers and are committed to moving forward with sustainable, earth-conscious practices—and often passing that passion along to the next generation. 

There’s just something special about knowing where your food comes and who it supports. I value the care and respect that Organic Valley pays during every step of the farm-to-table process. I know that when I choose Organic Valley milk, I’m supporting families like mine who care about doing good for the animals, the people and the planet. 

I look at supporting family farmers as a win-win scenario: When consciously sourced, the food tastes better and retains more nutrients. Meanwhile, the farmers can provide for their own families, too. This gives everyone what we want—from tasty and high-quality organic food to better communities. After all, what’s good for any family is good for our society.  

Explore Organic Valley's products in your local grocery store and learn more on their website.