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…
I ran across two separate articles today that essentially shared the same alarming trend. Unethical farmer’s, agricorp, and chain grocery stores all want to cash in on this Farmer’s Market – Local Food craze. Those of us who love greener living and natural foods LOVE our farmer’s markets and when I read this stuff I get REALLY pissed.
Farmer’s markets are one of the number one ways we have to tap into local food. I myself also use a local food delivery service but other than that.. the farmer’s market is the way to go. Our local Whole Foods is great but when I want food that is grown within 50 miles of my house then I go to the Farmer’s Market. I know from speaking to the vendors there that my apples were grown nearby and that the booth next door is selling apple butter that incorporates their apples. I know that the lady who sells the honey has bee boxes on her property and you can go and see them yourself. All that is sold there can be verified as local by simply getting in the car and taking a drive. We HAVE to be connected to our food chain. We just HAVE to be. When we allow a disconnect then we eat processed mystery foods that have questionable ingredients and nutrition. You know the whole phrase about when you stand for nothing you will fall for anything. As a society we have made some hugely BAD decisions in regards to food and for many us, local food has been just what we needed to get back on track. But now even that is under attack.
In Seattle, Washington, Idaho, and Oregon lately… some chain grocery stores posted signs with the term “Farmers Market” above produce displays in front of their stores. Even if the food is local this is just plain wrong. The beauty of the market is that you buy direct from the farmer without the middle man. You get to talk to the person who grew your food AND they get decent pay for their food. With chain grocery stores you have to take their word on how the food was grown and the farmer may have gotten paid a few pennies out of the deal. These companies are recognizing certain power words like Farmer’s Market and are trying to get in on the action when the very essence of what they represent goes against these terms.
In bigger cities you may also have something else to worry about… that your favorite market may have been corrupted. In Southern California some Farmer’s Markets have been caught in false claims and outright lies. A group of NBC investigators recently discovered that some of the “local farmers” are in fact getting their produce from major agricorp and even from out of the country while their own farms were nothing but dirt lots. The group also tested some of the produce they got for pesticides after the farmers promised that no pesticides were used. 3 out 5 had pesticides and too much for it to be cross contamination, which was the lame excuse given by the farmers when they were confronted. I guess it shows that if some farmer’s cannot hack it, they will get creative with their truth telling.
All of us need to be vigilant when we attend our local markets. We need to talk to the vendors, question them, and even do our investigative homework by taking farm tours and driving by their operations. Ethical farmer’s will welcome our inquiries because we have to protect the one system that exists to keep us connected to our food. We can also help them by spreading the word about wonderful farmers.
So what do you think? Are these isolated incidents or is this just the beginning of big agri-business trying to co-op our local food chain?
Local Food and the Full Moon…
Local food finds: Homemade bread, tomatoes, and Greek Yogurt w/herbs
Vegetarian Egg Drop soup with local, pastured eggs
Local organic foods delivered to our door… sweet corn, milk, zucchini, garlic, and pastured eggs
Full Moon Rituals
Recommended Reading: Full Moon Feast: Food and the Hunger for Connection