For me, the holidays really are the most wonderful time of the year. Spending time with loved ones, enjoying the smell of a Christmas tree, the sight of flickering candles, and spreading cheer with a gift or two. But, sometimes finding that perfect gift can be daunting. I think the best gifts are those with meaning — those that come from our hands, our hearts, and our local communities.
That’s why I asked my fellow staff members for their gift plans – I knew they’d have good ideas. We hope this gift guide can make the season a little easier for you to show your support for family farmers.
A Very Farm Aid Christmas Playlist
Step one: get some music going to get you in the spirit. Our staff member Kari put this Spotify playlist together featuring artists who have performed at Farm Aid over the years:
Farm Aid Staff Gift Ideas
Now that we’ve got some good music to keep us company, let’s get rolling…
Seeds & Garden Tools
Encourage some personal growth! Seeds make a fun, inexpensive gift that kids and adults alike will enjoy watching coming to life. If you plan ahead, you can even save your own seeds – here’s a tutorial on saving tomato seeds from our HOMEGROWN.org project – just try to remember next year. Of course, there are plenty of great places to buy seeds. Our staff member Jennie says:
I’m really into giving people seeds from the Hudson Valley Seed Company because they’re a small seed company with unique fruit and vegetable varieties. And all the seeds come in beautiful packaging! I especially love the Panther Edamame Soybean seeds.
If your loved on gets those seeds, they’re going to need some tools to turn them into healthy plants. Laura’s got a recommendation; “A farmer I worked for had a couple of Rogue scuffle hoes, and they became my favorite and most reliable gardening tools. They are often on my Christmas wish list.”
Now for the super-obvious: a good gift that comes straight from family farmers.
A very popular choice among our staff members is a ham from Patchwork Family Farms. If you’ve been to a Farm Aid concert, there’s a good chance you’ve seen or tasted one of their famous pork chop sandwiches or bratwursts and you’re probably hooked. Check out this endorsement from Jennifer:
A Christmas ham from Missouri’s Patchwork Family Farms would look great on your holiday table. The families who make up Patchwork Family Farms started out fighting factory farms in their community, but they quickly realized they needed to also create the alternative to industrial agriculture. The result is the best pork I’ve ever tasted!
Carolyn also gives her thumbs-up (as do Kari and Glenda and… you get the idea):
I ALWAYS order a bone-in ham from Patchwork Family Farms, in Chillicothe, Missouri, which was started by the innovative folks at Missouri Rural Crisis Center we’ve been working with for 31 years now. THE BEST!!
Another popular choice among Farm Aid staff. Alicia recommends cheese from Family Farm Defenders (an organization whose mission is to create a farmer-controlled and consumer-oriented food and fiber system) made in Wisconsin. She says:
At a time when dairy farmers are in peril from prices being lower than their cost of production, buying from dairy farm families directly can have a big impact.
Jennifer has another cheesy recommendation:
This year, I met the Sullivan Family, who make unique goat cheeses at Sullivan’s Pond Farm in Virginia. Rona has so much knowledge about cheesemaking, and Cole creates beautiful and delicious cheese coverings and flavorings.
Hilde brings some sweetness with her recommendation:
A grad school friend of mine makes Bobo’s Mountain Sugar maple syrup, and it’s delicious! I always look to homemade, small-batch specialty items with a story to tell as a special gift at the holidays. A bottle of Bobo’s with your favorite recipe for pancakes or waffles is a great treat. And if you have any canned fruit preserves from the summer’s harvest to share, even better!
Slopeside Syrup is another sweet option. Back in 2013, we wrote a Farmer Hero profile of Roger Brown, one of the owners. He says, “I think a lot of sustainable farming is about finding good outlets for what you’re doing, especially in the maple world. The maple brand is great, it’s strong, but getting people to think about using syrup in ways that they haven’t traditionally thought about it is really important to keeping the industry alive.”
Homemade Food Gifts!
Our staff member Glenda is skilled in the kitchen, and especially when it comes to baked goods. Her fruit crisps and pies have helped many of us power through long, long staff meetings. So it’s no surprise to hear her mention that baking is in her future. Glenda says:
A friend just asked me for the gift of a pie, with frozen sour cherries from Orbaker Farm, participants in Red Tomato distribution. Here’s a pie recipe I think would be fun, but I haven’t tried it yet. If they are gifts, should pies be experimental? Or do they need to be tried-and-true?”
I have a feeling that even the most experimental of Glenda’s pies are well worth tasting!
I love getting and creating food gifts! Here are some ideas that might keep me busy in the kitchen and make it under the tree this year:
- Spicy beer mustard – Make or buy some pretzels to give with this, and make your giftee very happy!
- Aztec chocolate bark – Why pick between sweet and salty snacks? The pumpkin seeds in this chocolate recipe give it a delicious crunch and the spice warms your heart.
- Homemade brandied cherries – These last for months in the refrigerator and they improve any cocktail or ice cream they join forces with.
- Double peanut popcorn – This idea comes with a warning from personal experience: it’s so good, your “small sample” may be never-ending, and your giftee might not end up with much. Make a batch for yourself first!
Share a favorite album with a note about why it means something to you. Our staff member Caroline says:
One of the albums that spins constantly in my house each December is “Pretty Paper” by Willie Nelson. It doesn’t feel like the holidays without Willie’s takes on Christmas classics and the timeless title track. A vinyl copy makes a great gift and companion to Willie’s latest book, which expands on the “Pretty Paper” tale.
Laura continues the Christmas music theme and includes a new release with her picks:
As for me, The Avalanches are a group I discovered this year and I’m glad I did. Through the ups and downs of 2016 and busy time preparing for the Farm Aid concert, their new album “Wallflower” has been a nice musical companion with a style incorporating a lot of different genres. Here’s one song with a creative video:
I’ve also been obsessively listening to this tribute to the Beach Boys’ album “Pet Sounds” by contemporary psychedelic rock bands since it came out earlier this year.
Cards & Flowers & Beautiful Things
Speaking of “Pretty Paper,” Jennifer just loves these note cards which feature papercut illustrations by artist Anna Brones. They’re inspired by our friend Audra Mulkern’s photos from The Female Farmer Project. Proceeds from the sale of the cards support women farmers around the world.
You’re probably familiar with the idea of getting fresh food from local farmers through a weekly or monthly CSA subscription, but some farms also offer flower CSA shares. Jessica spills the beans on her gift idea:
I’d love to give my parents a subscription to a local flower CSA so that they can have a constant stream of beautiful, fresh flowers from local farmers throughout the spring and summer!
For help finding a CSA in your area, whether it’s for parsnips or for petunias, check out Local Harvest’s search tool.
Heritage Hollow Farms (operated by Molly and Mike Peterson, a couple of our Farmer Heroes) raises and sells everything from pork, beef, chickens, to eggs and prints of Molly’s beautiful photography. Now they’ve added candles made with 100% grassfed beef tallow and organic beeswax to their to their inventory. I have a feeling that the Farm Aid office is about to start smelling a lot nicer soon.
While I’m terrible at it, I do appreciate a well-wrapped gift. I’m a big fan of unconventional wrapping, like using a piece of fabric, a dish towel, or even… a Farm Aid bandanna. Here is a nice list of other creative ways to wrap gifts (and potentially save money in the process).
The Gift of Farm Aid
When you give to Farm Aid, you tell family farmers that they matter.
All of us gain when we create a strong, family-farm centered system of agriculture. Family farmers offer us health by bringing us good food, and they protect our future by caring for our soil and water. If we want good food from family farms, we need to support them every step along the way. Your gift provides the resources they need to thrive on the land.