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Coastal Bend farmers can help offset certain food shortages

edelin farming 1.jpg
Posted at 5:39 PM, Sep 28, 2021
and last updated 2021-09-28 19:18:26-04

Large-scale food suppliers are seeing meat and produce shortages that are affecting both their supply and their prices because of both the COVID-19 pandemic, and weather events such as February's deep freeze.

That translates to higher prices in grocery stores and restaurants locally and nationwide.

But did you know there are Coastal Bend farmers who sell meat and produce directly to the public?

"I do receive many surprised and happy people that are pleased to know they can come out and see how their food is grown and produced," said Edelen Farms' Andrew Edelin via email. "Know your farmer, and know where your food comes from!"

Edelen Farms has been in Alice since the 1980s, and has been selling directly to the public since the late 1990s. Originally owned by Greg and Lauren Edelen, their youngest son, Andrew, now owns and operates the land.

Local meat markets have been reporting meat rising prices from their distributors throughout the novel coronavirus pandemic, and as recently as Labor Day weekend, Moody's Quality Meats owner Charlie Moench said that because demand is so high, cows are being taken to market with less meat. Skinny cows make for less available meat to go around.

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It's not a problem Edelen said his farm has had, since he raises his animals from birth and decides when they are ready to be processed.

"We do not see any domino effect or any reason to increase prices," he said.

The problem he has encountered, however, is in finding available butchers when it comes time to process his animals.

"We are having to schedule half a year in advance or more, and that is difficult to project what you need and availability of animals," he said.

Edelin Farms sells grass-fed beef, free-range chickens and has turkeys available seasonally. It also has free-range eggs and seasonal vegetables.

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Produce shopping on a local farm, however, won't have the same vast selection as a grocery store. H-E-B and other large chains have the benefit of being able to import vegetable and fruit from global sources, while farms such as Andrew's are limited to the selection they grow themselves or have access to via other local farms.

"If you go to a grocery store and want grapes they might buy some out of Florida one week, (Peru) the next week, South Africa the third week, California the fourth week, and so on to have grapes on their shelf year round," he said. "While my farm grows and sells our own products, we might only have grapes on the vine and in the market for four weeks out of the year."

But what Edelen Farms lacks in a concentration of supply, it makes up for in diversity.

The beef, chicken and turkeys grown on the farm eventually are able to wield around 50 or more individual products, he said.

"(Then) you look at the garden side of the farm, and I am producing over 50 different fruits and vegetables and 10 different citrus at the time this article is being written," he said.

edelen eggs

So while larger farms focus in on growing between one and five specific crops, Andrew said he plants different items that produce at different times of the year.

"I face the same seasons that grocery store farms face, but instead of doing 100s of acres of veggies that are all done at the same time and (maybe) harvesting three weeks out of the year, I am doing smaller sizes and so (diverse) that something is growing year round and being harvested weekly."

So while he may not be able to sell someone garlic, tomatoes, peppers and everything they need for a salad at the Grow Local Farmers Market, he enjoys showing them how they can use the ingredients he has on-hand to still put together a meal. He also offers growing tips and tricks on the farm's Facebook page.

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Because his year-round garden is only two years old, he said, there are times when he still has to go to the grocery store for additional ingredients. But growing up on his parents' farm, eggs and meat were never items he had to leave home for until he joined the U.S. Marine Corps.

He said he hopes that, in a few years, he can say the same about vegetables and fruit.

"I haven't made it through the whole year yet not needing to shop at the store, but I'm sure in a few years it will be just as weird to buy veggies at the store, also," he said. "I have never been afraid of food shortages or what to do if the stores go out of business."