25 Gifts That Benefit Farms, Budget
It’s the time of year when people start the impossible task – finding a unique, useful gift for those on your list and maintaining your budget and having enough to help those in need and…ack! It doesn’t stretch! What if it did? What if you could get a cool gift AND benefit others?
Buying direct from farms and small businesses isn’t just for Small Business Saturday, Cyber Monday, Black Friday or Temptation Tuesday. Here are 25 gifts that benefit the farms many say they want to support, but don’t think of during gift purchasing. Here at SlowMoneyFarm we have gift certificates, and a variety of ways to help those in and near Walker county as well as help our little farm venture. (A little bird just whispered there’s some good deals on the Facebook page too!) Even commercial items someone had to grow and process it.
Small farms often don’t get enough of the seasonal income, and yet offer truly unique gifts and baskets. Without further delay – here are 25 ideas for gift giving this year (you can even make your own gift baskets!).
1. Fruit baskets have long been a way to thank those we do business with throughout the year. Today’s fruit options are more diverse than ever, with new varieties added to old favorites. Small farms as well as larger ones may be able to offer some variety immediately or throughout 2015. While many think of getting a gift every month as a good thing, it’s easy to not think that farms are an ideal way to offer this!
2. Nuts are very popular this time of year for baking with but also something that can make for raw snacks. From pecans to walnuts ot a host of others, nuts are a once per year crop for farmers that grow them, and a tasty treat for those receiving them.
3. Honey is glorious. Yes, I said it. Heavenly sweet, useful for so many things from glazing food to baking to so much more! Look for whole honey – commercially some is stretched with high fructose corn syrup – it’s still honey but whole honey is more likely to benefit small farms and, arguably, is higher quality for special gifts.
4. Molasses is another sweet treat. For many it’s relegated to molasses cookies and sweet feed for horses but that sells it short! Revisit sorghum molasses over steaming biscuits. It’s a different flavor – and one often forgotten in today’s world.
5. Agritourism destination – from bed and breakfast to trail rides to cattle drives to a host of other ideas, agritourism gets you close up with the people who make your food. From destination places like Fair Oaks Farms, where you can see cattle and hogs being raised then taste the end products, to rural areas you can go visit many types of farms, agritourism is a great way to create memories in a gift. Classes, clinics and other hands on opportunities to learn can be part of agritourism.
6. Wool blankets, socks, hats have characteristics just not present in synthetic fibers. From ordinary wool to specialty items from farms that raise the sheep, spin the wool and make it into useful products, wool is something that brings the farm to you in a tangible way.
7. Bacon – it’s a force to be reckoned with in the meat world, with different flavors, curing and delightful tastes. Bacon is no longer just for breakfast, and specialty bacon is worthy of gift status.
8. Cotton clothing – “the fabric of our lives” is taken for granted. Clothing made with cotton can help keep us cool on hot days, offers a rainbow of colors and a host of looks. Natural is in – and these natural fibers should be a part of our lives. What better winter wear than a soft cotton shirt layered with a wool sweater?!
9. Maple syrup is distinct, time consuming and produced in the cold season. Look for pure maple syrup – like honey, many are stretched with high fructose corn syrup, but for special gift giving, make it the pure, rich taste of maple syrup.
10. Jams or jellies are increasingly a value added product for small farms trying to get enough to get by. Buying direct from the farm gives a different experience, and while there’s nothing wrong with volume produced treats, get more bang for your buck (and flavor) with direct purchased items. Many also offer various relish and other items canned in jars.
11. Wine is thought of in California holidays but get beyond those. Arrington Vineyards are but one in an area (Tennessee) people don’t think of as vineyard areas. Some smaller areas produce some good wines, and some are beyond the grape too!
12. Roasted almonds sometimes with sweet or savory seasonings are a different gift. A healthy snack food, they can warrant a spot on the special gift list.
13. Popcorn seems common but how many tins are sold every year of pre popped toffee, cheesey or sugared popcorn? Lots! Tuck popcorn in with a movie gift basket or for someone needing a snack option for a new lifestyle.
14. Hand made furniture is often thought of as an Amish “thing” – and certainly they do fine work. Many other small farmers can and do produce beautiful work that is a sideline for the farm work, or something to do when not in the field.
15. Sponsorship ideas abound, from conservation efforts to our own sponsorships that help provide food to those needing a temporary hand up. Others might be non-profit groups such as Heifer Project International.
16. Heritage meats. Many breeds of livestock have been around for a century or more, but are not seen as commercially viable due to color, size or other factors that affect being raised in confinement. Our own Giant Chinchilla rabbits are an example of this, as is a range of poultry, sheep, goats, pigs, cattle and more that would be on the endangered species list if they were wildlife. They offer unique characteristics, often suited for outdoor production. Many are slower growing, but more full flavored.
17. Heirloom produce. Heirloom produce is to tomatoes, peppers, beans and other garden what heritage is to livestock. With choosing heritage and heirloom options you can eat antiques – those varieties that have been around for an extensive amount of time. Some peppers and tomatoes, for example, trace to the Civil War era, and many were kept by presidents. Monticello has many garden varieties maintained.
18. Angora, mohair items. Many are familiar with wool, but less so with angora and mohair. Angora is, specifically, fiber from a particular type of rabbit. It is typically very fine, very soft and often blended with wool. Mohair is fiber from angora goats. Another type of goat, and fiber, is cashmere. These are specialty fibers, and usually are not something maintained in volume due to the time requirements.
19. Herbal treasures. Heavenly mints, rosemary and other herbs straight from the farm are so much better than dried and stored! There’s options of stevia, many varieties of mints and a host of other things that can be dried on the farm.
20. Bird watching items. Bird feeders, feed for the bird feeders and other goodies can be found – yes – on American small farms. Small grains are a specialty for some.
21. Wildlife items like corn for deer or squirrels can be cheaper if bought direct.
22. Photography. Many think of food and fiber but forget the decorations on the wall that could come from small farms. Increasingly, farmers are documenting life – sunrises, sunsets, animals, beauty of the seasons and life in rural areas.
23. CSA options. Eating well, getting closer to the source is an increasing interest for many. A gift for year long eating is possible with a gift of a CSA options.
24. Natural craft items. Feathers, fur, wood and other items are often used for crafts, and not everyone has a solid source for them. These are all options!
25. Cheese. Cheese plates are loved by many, as well as specialty cheese. Many varieties and a chance to gift some out of the ordinary cheddar!
Direct contact benefits farms. The ripple effect benefits others in the community as well.