If you follow my blog, you’ve read a lot about why eating organic, quality foods is so important. But there’s another equally important aspect to the food industry, and that’s the act of buying food. You’ve heard the expression “money is power,” and that applies to food as well. Where you shop, what stores you support, and when you buy things is just as important – if not more – as what kind of food you buy.
I’ve told you about FarmPlate and GreenTowns, which are great resources for locavores, or local food eaters. But I never told you why eating local is so important. Supporting local business helps keep money in your local economy rather that in Big Ag’s pockets. And by supporting local farmers and farmer’s markets, you not only help keep them in business, but you also help them preserve their farmland, which land developers would happily buy up and turn into residential or commercial plots should the farm fail. It also reduces the amount of gas and other resources needed to get the food to you, which benefits both the environment and you, since you aren’t paying prices inflated by shipping costs. The Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture estimates that “fresh” produce travels about 1500 miles to reach our bellies (Why Eat Locally?). That’s a lot of gas.
If you’re like me, you like to know where your food comes from, whether it’s local or not. Buying from farmer’s markets gives you a chance to meet the farmers (or their crew) and ask them about their products. They know a lot about their products, and who doesn’t love learning about food? I also enjoy fresh – I mean FRESH – produce, and buying from local markets means that farmers can harvest their produce at the peak of its freshness and not have to worry about storing it for transportation. There’s nothing like making a casserole for dinner with produce picked that day.
For those of you who’ve never been to a farmer’s market, have no fear, they’re not just for veggies! Many livestock farmers sell their meats at markets, and there are often bakers, craft vendors, jelly-makers, dairy farmers, herbalists, and flower vendors. I’ve worked several markets in both Delaware and Maryland, and though the majority of the vendors are vegetable growers, there are always a good variety of other vendors as well. So don’t think you have to limit yourself to veggies if you choose the locavore lifestyle.
Community Supported Agriculture, or a CSA, is a great way to get involved in local agriculture. In most CSAs, you pay a lump sum at the beginning of the season and receive your share of veggies each week. Some farms require you to volunteer a certain number of hours on the farm as part of your payment, but not all. At the farm where I work, a small share (for 2 people) is $450, and it runs from the beginning of May until Thanksgiving. This week, the share included beets, tomatoes, potatoes, summer squash, zucchini, cantaloupe, and watermelon. Our members also get 10% off anything in our store that we produce, including our meats. Each CSA is set up differently, but they’re most definitely worth the investment.
One aspect of eating local that does take some getting used to is the importance of the seasons. Certain vegetable only grow during certain times of year, and though some can be grown in greenhouses during the winter, eating locally usually means eating seasonally. Trust me, I would love to eat asparagus all year long, but vegetable just don’t taste the same when they’re grown out of season. Freezing is one way around this; I freeze berries, homemade pasta sauce, shredded zucchini for zucchini bread, and cooked veggies like corn and carrots. Canning is also another way to enjoy veggies out of season, and it’s relatively easy. It took me forever to actually attempt it, but after my first batch of strawberry jelly came out fabulously, I was hooked. Canning tomatoes is even easier. But that’s another blog post.
If you’re interested in local eating, definitely check out GreenTowns, FarmPlate, and LocalHarvest, another site listing local markets (I think LocalHarvest has the most listings). A great example of a locavore is my friend Aundra, who lives in Chestertown, MD. She’s a homesteader/locavore/Zumba teacher, and her blog is both entertaining and informative, as she documents her journey through all different zones of fitness. She has a list of local farms whose products she buys, so her blog is a great resource for any locavores living near Chestertown. I highly suggest you check it out: http://www.chestertownfitforlife.com/.
And if you live on the Delmarva peninsula and are willing to do a little driving, check out Greenbranch Farm where I work. The farm is in Salisbury, MD, and we have a store on the farm that’s open Monday-Saturday where we sell all of our veggies and meats, as well as local milk, eggs, cheese, and crafts. We also sell our produce and some meats at several farmer’s markets, all of which are listed on our website. (We also go to the Sea Colony market in Bethany, DE on Wednesdays, 8am-12pm, and the Ocean Pines market outside Ocean City, MD on Saturdays, 8am-12pm. I work the Sea Colony market on Wednesdays, 8am-12pm. It’s a nice little market, and it’s right across the highway from the beach, so there’s always a lovely ocean breeze. To our left is a fabulous raw milk cheese stand, and to our right is a conventional farm who grows yellow seedless watermelons. Yummm. The man who runs it is such a character that I’m laughing all day, and he always gives us a watermelon.)
Yes, there were a couple of shameless plugs in this post. I support the people I respect. Share the love.