Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Eating Locally

locally grown produce at Whole Foods the end of last summer
I know it's the middle of winter and you are thinking...how can I eat locally? Nothing is growing (at least if you live in the north east). But there are other things you can eat locally besides fruits and vegetables.

I know I keep writing about Whole Foods, but I am fortunate enough to work close to one and they have been the best source of the unconventional sh** I have been looking for. There are many things Whole Foods sells that I do not agree with (like soy products), but there are a lot of things that I could not find any where else.
local cheese!
Whole Foods have locally sourced fruits and vegetables (when in season), local dairy, local eggs, and local meats. They, by far, have the best variety of organic dairy, eggs, and meat that I have seen in any large grocery chain. Too bad it is illegal to buy raw dairy in New Jersey (something that I hope will be overturned).

Another thing to start thinking about now is whether or not to join a CSA. (If you aren't aware....that stands for Community Supported Agriculture). When you join a CSA you basically buy a share of the crops that are produced by that farm. That means that you pay upfront for local to semi-local fresh produce. You get your fresh, seasonal fruits and veggies delivered to you every week. As with mother nature, there are no guarantees. Some years are better than others, but is great to know that your produce is coming to you straight from the farm. Who knows how long produce is sitting in the food store before you actually take it home (and who knows what has been sprayed on it at the farm AND when it comes into the country- yikes!).

Here are some sites to find a CSA near you:

Will I be joining a CSA? Probably not for the sole reason that I started a huge garden last year and it will be pumping out more than I could possibly eat. I am however going to make it a weekly thing to go to a farmers market once they start up in the spring. It's too early to talk about that, but I will be in a few months.

Here are some snippits from an article by Mark Bittman (one of my favorites!) about his experience talking and visiting with a CSA in Burlington, VT. Original Article
The Intervale, which is on the Winooski River, has been farmland for nearly the entire time humans have lived in this region, not only because land that floods is especially fertile (think of the Nile), but because it isn’t much good for anything else. “The Intervale was always a smart place to grow food,” says Will Raap, the founder of Gardener’s Supply, headquartered in the Intervale. “It’s fertile and flat, and there’s plenty of water. And as Burlington grew it didn’t get developed because it floods.” Twenty-five years ago, part of it was planted in corn and much of the rest had become an informal dump.
Raap happened upon the land back then, saw its potential and teamed with Burlington Mayor Bernie Sanders (the now-heroic Vermont senator, with whom I was touring the Intervale Center) to begin seeding and incubating small businesses and farms in the Intervale. The Center’s goals are familiar ones, but worth repeating: to use the land responsibly and sustainably, to help farmers make a living, and to make needed connections among people, farms and food.
Some of these farms have relied heavily upon the C.S.A. (community-supported agriculture) method of selling their crops. In a C.S.A., devoted consumers pre-pay the farmer for a percentage of the crop, usually stopping by the farm once a week to pick up a box of assorted produce. In theory, whatever is harvested that week is equally divided among shareholders. (In practice it’s more complicated than this, but let’s keep it simple.)
But C.S.A.’s have limitations for both consumers and farmers. To attract customers, farmers must diversify and plant 20, 30, even 40 crops annually, trying to grow each in quantities sufficient to satisfy all the shareholders. When it comes to kale, a prolific crop whose season begins early and ends late, this isn’t a problem. When it comes to eggplant, tomatoes, strawberries, peaches or any number of other foods whose abundance isn’t easily guaranteed … well, that’s serious work. (A common lament goes something like, “My basket had three strawberries and four pounds of kale!”) Then there are the inconveniences of picking up the box at the farm, usually at an assigned time. (This can also be a chance for community members to socialize and connect with farmers.)
For both farmers and consumers, there is also risk. When the floods associated with Hurricane Irene came this fall, some C.S.A.’s virtually ceased operations for the year. Bad for everyone.
Thus C.S.A.’s have limited impact in moving the food system forward, because most of the population prefers more traditional shopping.
And last but not least...local dairy. This is what I am most interested in now due to my recent enlightenment by Sally Fallon of The Weston A. Price Foundation. I am going to start sourcing raw milk, raw milk cheeses and butter made from raw milk that I can purchase. I want to determine a couple of things:

  • first I want to see if I can taste a difference
  • second I want to see if I can feel a difference
  • third I want to see what the cost difference is

Here is a great resource if you are interested in finding raw milk by you: RealMilk

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