Guest post by Debbie Steinberg Kuntz, founder & editor of Odyssey Outdoors.
If you want to know where your food comes from, there’s no better way than to grow it yourself! That’s just what we did with a group of families last weekend in the outdoor family group we formed about a year ago. We followed these 10 easy steps.
1. Gather supplies.
We started with newspaper, some beautiful organic seeds that would grow in early spring in our area, organic potting soil, popsicle sticks and markers for labeling, and shoeboxes for transporting the seedling bundles back home.
The beauty of using newspaper is that we didn’t need to buy pots, and the newspaper can be planted directly in the ground and will quickly biodegrade.
2. Discuss with kids where our food comes from.
First we talked about how our food is grown. How do we know how many chemicals were used? We explained to the kids that the best way to know is to talk to people at the grocery store, form relationships with farmers and best of all, grow it yourself!
3. Demonstrate how to create the origami newspaper pot.
Before beginning, a couple of the adults watched this video. Note that the woman in the video is in Germany and she uses a different size newspaper than in the U.S. In the U.S. you will need to trim about 2 inches from the long side of your newspaper before folding.
Here one of our group moms demonstrates how to make the origami newspaper pot.
4. Work in adult/child pairs if possible.
Research shows that it’s an asset for kids to have non-parent adults who they can trust in their lives. In our outdoor group we often work in non-parent adult/child pairs to build community long term.
5. Color popsicle sticks to label each seed pot.
We used a background color similar to the vegetable, and then spelled the name of the veggie on top.
6. Fill the origami newspaper pots with organic potting soil.
7. Label each pot with the popsicle stick labels.
8. Put the seed bundles in a shoebox for easy transport and watering.
9. Time to plant the seeds!
Make sure to use organic seeds that grow well in your area.
10. Your seedlings are ready to grow!
Bring home the seedlings and water them just enough so that the soil stays damp, but the newspaper doesn’t fall apart. Wait until sprouts appear and then bring them outside during the day, in a shady spot for a few days. Then gradually move them into the sunshine. Then, they’re ready to go in the ground! Tips on planting them in the garden can be found here.
And that’s how we start growing, and soon eating, our super-local, organic food!
All summer long I opted out of my weekly delivery box of farm fresh veggies and fruit. During the late spring and summer it is all too easy to make a weekly trip to the farmer’s market instead but I have missed that delivery box sitting on my step every Friday afternoon. When it arrived my kids would dive in and exclaim over everything in it. Its just food (and we pay for it) but it really feels like you got a wonderful present. We are lucky that we have this option because there are any who don’t live near good farmer’s markets and there are many who don’t have organic delivery services or CSAs.
I have heard of mail order services that provide fresh produce but I never had a reason to try them. But the lovely folks at The Fruit Guys sent me a complementary produce box to try and we were not disappointed. It arrived in a cardboard box with cardboard partitions (post consumer recycled) and printed with soy inks so it was pretty eco friendly packaging. It had some cloth ice bags that we saved for future use and a couple green bags we also saved to reuse. It gets an A+ for packaging in my book. Our local delivery service uses far too much plastic and Styrofoam.
The box was also filled yummy looking produce. We got white peaches, red plums, nectarines, Beefsteak tomatoes, Cucumbers, sweet corn, sweet bell peppers, yellow onion, and oregano. Some recipes were also included in the box. LOVE how some CSA’s and delivery services thrown in that extra touch. All was quickly devoured by my brood. I think the fruit was the first to go. Its like candy to may kids. The bell peppers were devoured by the husband and by our three reptilian friends. The sweet corn was used in a chowder. The tomatoes we also ate straight away. I managed to get through an entire summer without eating tomatoes and mozzarella drizzled with vinaigrette. How in the heck did that happen?!?!
Well, I made up for lost time. My kids love this simple dish as much as I do and it, along with fruit, was a simple and easy dinner.
We were quite pleased with our Fruit Guys box and if I had the need in our location I would not hesitate to use them regularly. I think it is awesome that you can still get that bit of farm fresh, whole foods, goodness even when you don’t have access to a good market or CSA and they deliver fresh seasonal produce all year long. To keep it as local as possible they have hubs across the U.S. in South San Francisco, Phoenix, Chicago, and Philadelphia. Plus they support small farms and local communities. Your food is likely coming from the region surrounding the hub nearest to you and thus supporting local, small scale agriculture there. Their GoodWorks program allows them to donate more than 150,000 pounds of produce to food shelters annually. I think that is really awesome, especially after we saw so many pounds of apples at our local orchard that are just left to rot on the ground instead of being picked up and sent to food banks. I HATE it when companies allow food to go to waste instead of feeding needy people in their area.
If this is something you need in your area you can peruse their website for more info.You just choose your mix, case size and how often you want delivery and they do the rest.
Do you use a produce delivery service in your area or do you DIY and shop at local stores?
As is normal this time of year, I am completely head over heels in love with local food. My garden is coming along nicely and I have tiny cauliflower, tomatoes, and sugar snap peas already. My city’s farmer’s market starts this Thursday and my organic delivery box is ripe with farm fresh produce and pastured eggs. It is about this time that I like to re-read my fave local food memoirs like This Organic Life, and Animal, Vegetable, Miracle.
So of course when I saw a local foodie book at my library this morning I had to scoop it up. The book is The Feast Nearby: How I lost my job, buried a marriage, and found my way by keeping chickens, foraging, preserving, bartering, and eating locally (all on $40 a week). The title is mouthful but the book is quite an awesome read. It is a personal journey mixed with stories of family, neighbors, and food. It also has lots of recipes for all the delicious dishes the author mentions in the book. I think I will end up buying it for the recipes… some of them I just need to have on hand!
Mather, the author, picked up and moved from a big city to a small town in Michigan and a small lakeside cabin. She has a very modest food budget of $40 a week so she buys up food when it is in season and cans and preserves it for the cold weather months. She doesn’t have much of garden space but she does have chickens and the rest of her food comes from local sources. I loved reading her story month by month and sometimes week by week as new food items come into season and she buys up extra to preserve them each and every week until she has enough to last the winter. When she buys them up she also makes her weekly meals with them too so there are lots of great seasonal recipes and preservation recipes in there.
I loved going along with the author as she would go to the farmer’s market and score the first beets of the season and chat up the farmer’s about this or that. I also loved the stories from her childhood meals she would tell, mixed in with the daily grind of feeding her chickens or making batches of raspberry preserves. Since she had/has a limited budget she made all her meals from scratch and she bartered for things… trading her preserves for fresh greens and potatoes from her neighbor. She also didn’t need to sacrifice quality on that $40 a week. She had local lamb, beef, and chicken regularly as well as her favored but pricey milk. It just goes to show you that you can feed a family of 4-5 with organic, fresh, pastured, nourishing foods for only $150ish a week, without growing your own.
Anyway, I read this book in just a few hours and can’t seem to keep my mind from wandering to all the goodies I will find at my own farmer’s market this week. Can’t wait!
Here is a photo I took this week of what we are eating at the moment… yum!
It is so easy to just walk into a grocery store and fill your cart with foods that look delicious. Today’s grocery stores even have ‘organic’ and ‘natural’ foods for you to choose from. For many the label makes it easy for them to feel that they are getting the best foods available, while still maintaining the convenience of purchasing all their food in one place.
But just because you can purchase all of your foods in one place does not necessarily mean that you should, and it is a fact that even the ‘natural’ and ‘organic’ foods in most grocery stores are not locally grown foods. While they may be natural or organic, the benefits may be countermanded by the distance they had to travel. Besides that, there is more to eating locally than simple freshness.
Six Benefits of Eating Locally
Local Foods Are Fresh and In Season. It’s a fact, if you purchase locally grown foods you know that they are in season. They have to be in order to be grown and harvested. And fresher, in-season foods just taste better and they are better for you as well. Many nutritionists believe that eating with the seasons is the best way to keep our bodies healthy because nature has cycles and it knows exactly what we need to eat.
Locally Grown Foods Have Less Impact on the Environment. Shipping foods across country – even foods labeled organic – can have a negative impact on the environment. By eating locally grown foods you are significantly lessening the carbon footprint you would otherwise leave by eating foods grown out of state or in another country. Most times you won’t even need to sacrifice organic standards either. More and more small farmers grow their food without chemicals, they just cannot afford expensive certification. Get to know your farmer and you may be pleasantly surprised.
Locally Grown Foods Maintain Farmland. Buying locally grown foods ensures not only that you keep the carbon footprint of your foods as small as possible, but ensures that there is plenty of green space and farmland maintained in your local community in order to sustain the locally grown market. This is good for everyone who appreciates fresh air and a view of more than city streets and sidewalks.
Locally Grown Foods are Safer. By cutting out the middlemen; those individuals who process and package and ship the food, you cut down on the chance of your food getting contaminated – even inadvertently. Knowing where your food is grown and who grew it tells you something about the food itself, and knowledge, as they say, is power.
Buying Locally Grown Foods Boosts the Local Economy. You were going to buy the lettuce (or spinach or apples) anyway, why give your money to some big chain store or huge agri-business company? Why not keep that money in the neighborhood where you know it will do some good? If I have a choice between padding the pockets of a big corporation that may use my money to lobby against environmental issues or giving my money directly to a family that needs it.. I know which I would prefer. Purchasing food locally also cuts down on the amount of taxes and red tape involved in purchasing the food; money that would probably come out of your pocket anyway due to price hikes.
Purchasing Locally Grown Foods Create a Sense of Community. When you purchase food from a local grower it connects you to that person; through their land and the attention they have given to their produce, and how many of us want a connection to some big uncaring chain store? Making local connections instills a feeling of belonging and of community. People get talking, they share themselves with you, and with others, and everyone is better off.
If you are interested in more healthful living, in sustainability for your local farms, and in creating a sense of true community between yourself and those with whom you share your area, eating locally grown produce is definitely the right decision to make.
Recommends Reads for Local Eating:
Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life (My Review)
The Omnivore’s Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals (My Review)
The 100-Mile Diet: A Year of Local Eating
The whole week is a local foods celebration here in Ohio. We started off the week with our first ever visit to Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams. They are local to the area and they use local, seasonal ingredients for the most part. The cream comes from the local, grass fed, Snowville Creamery that provides us with milk each week. It was just named America’s Best Ice Cream by the Food Network too!
The flavors are a bit different but oh so yummy. Of the flavors we tried today, our faves were hands down the Salty Caramel, the Goat Cheese with Cherries, and the Goat Cheese with Cognac Fig Sauce. I think a trip to Jeni’s is going to be a regular monthly thing! Reminder to self though… bring along our wooden spoons so we can decline the plastic ones in the shop…