Local Food

I am in the midst of planning a year of local eating for next year. Inspired for the most part by Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver. I read the book 2 years ago I think, but the idea stuck with me. Last year I didn’t do as much local eating as I wanted, since I didn’t have a car (excuses, excuses, I know). By next year, I should be out of debt, and have a little bit of extra money available for buying ahead and storing.

I plan on eating and buying only produce from local farms. Hopefully I’ll be able to find somewhere to buy what little dairy products we eat and I know I can find a source for local eggs (particularly since I don’t use more than 3 or 4 a month). I’m somewhat hopeful of finding local wheat–we are right next to Ohio, so it’s a possibility. I’m not so sure about oats for oatmeal and nuts. We don’t eat meat, so that’s not an issue. One thing I’m not sure about is milk-we generally use soy or almond milk. I thought even if I order the almonds for milk, I can make my own, which would save on shipping all the water around in the carton that I usually buy. Maple syrup I can get locally as well as honey, and I was considering using Florida sugar for those rare times that you need actual crystallizing sugar. Though a year without sugar wouldn’t be a bad idea.

I am building some cheats into my plan. Mine will be bananas and maybe tortilla chips, though a year without my delicious baked Tostitos would probably see me drop 10 pounds. I choose bananas because I can’t live without smoothies like some people can’t live without coffee. I also appreciate the irony of a tropical fruit being my cheat. I don’t know what Caleb’s will be. Maybe a different thing each week. That should keep him from balking at the idea.

Although I am concerned about the wasting of fossil fuels and the environmental cost of trucking food back and forth, that really isn’t my primary reason for doing this. My biggest reason is the same reason I like to buy from people on etsy: I want people to be able to have small family businesses and specifically here, small family farms.

I think working from home is the best thing that ever happened to me or the best thing that I have ever made happen (depending on how you want to look at it). It allows me to be with my son, but also to earn the money I need to keep a roof over my head. It provides a good example for my son of how to work for yourself, how to be a producer and not just a consumer. I want more people to have the opportunity to do what I am so fortunate to be able to do.

Family farms are more likely to care about the land, even if only because they can’t afford to just dump more and more fertilizer into the depleted soil. And they live on the land they farm. They have to administer the pesticides themselves, so naturally they are going to want to use less or none to cut down on their exposure. It’s nice to know the people that grow your food. We recently visited a organic farm that sells at our farmer’s market in town. We had lunch with them, got to see the farm and their chickens, see the super-energy efficient house they just built. If you become friends with the people that grow your food, you’ll feel less stingy at market time. Am I going to buy the green beans at Kroger that came from a huge farm in Florida or California because I can save a dollar??

Trust me. I know about needing to save money. I do everything I can. I buy all my clothes and my son’s clothes at Goodwill, actually I furnished most of my house from thrift stores. I live 8 hours away from my family in a broken down old house (well, it’s not really broken down…), because I wanted to save money. I bought my car for $1,100. I lived without a car for a year. I am all about saving money.

But the reason I buy organic food and the reason I will buy all local next year, is the same reason I give for buying real maple syrup: I would rather spend more for the real thing, then eat some unhealthy imitation. And really so much of the produce in the grocery store seems to be an imitation of the real garden-fresh thing. Those tomatoes? They were grown somewhere, but they sure don’t taste like the real thing. Those mushy, moldy blueberries from South America? They can’t hold a candle to the ones I pick down at Johnson’s farm. I want the real thing.

I’m blogging about my plans now, just in case anyone wants to join me. Now is the time to start finding farms that grow all your favorite fruits and vegetables. Now is the time to start keeping an eye out for canning jars, pressure or water bath canners, and dehydrators at the thrift stores. Pay attention to how much of certain things you are eating each week. Experiment with winter squash recipes. Plan that cold frame for winter greens. Think about how much more of your yard you can dig up for garden space.

So I’ll probably start around May when the strawberries come in. Strawberry picking will be intense this year if I’m to freeze enough for all year. We go through about 2 pounds a week right now. I’m also planning a big strawberry patch that should supply us with some strawberries all summer instead of just June.

I’ll be blogging about my plans and then my actual experiences when I start, so stay tuned. πŸ™‚ Also, new toys are on the way for the holidays, and I think I’ll do a toy making tutorial one of these days.

What about you? What are your local food buying experiences? Is anyone interested in joining me?

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10 thoughts on “Local Food

  1. oh this sounds like a fun adventure. I love my garden and making homemade salsa fresh from the garden. I’m all for buying local. I need to check out the farmers markets more than I have in the past. We get some food for free from my husbands work (he works at the nations largest organic food distributor)…it’s almost close to the pull date or damaged packaging.

    I love helping out local and small business owners. We have a house by my sons school that sells eggs. $4 a dozen. You can’t beat fresh eggs. Unfortunately not a lot of local farmers near by but I will do some more researching.

    Thanks for the awesome kick in the booty to start thinking about eating local πŸ™‚

  2. My family has gotten so lazy when it comes to buying local! I loved that book by Barbara Kingsolver also. It’s really inspiring! I live in such a great place for local food but we haven’t really been taking advantage of it. We have, however, in the past. In past summers we’ve gone the entire summer without stepping in a super market. It’s a wonderful feeling to support businesses. Like you, that’s one of the main reasons I love Etsy. I buy so many things there and I love knowing the earrings I’m wearing were made by someone in Indiana and not another country. Next summer we’re planning on getting back into visiting our farmers markets. Your year of local should be a great adventure!

  3. I feel the same way about bananas. I did feel a pang of guilt about eating so many after reading that section in Animal Vegetable Miracle — but then she talked about not even attempting to give up coffee (which, like you, I do not drink). So now we eat FEWER bananas and all the rest of my produce is local. There are many good reasons to support local and organic. I also feel really good about supporting family farms.

    • haha, my thoughts exactly. I was also a little disappointed when she said they were buying breakfast cereals all year. I mean, I don’t even buy breakfast cereal now. πŸ™‚

  4. I used to scoff at people who bought “organic” until I had the experience of participating in a CSA and seeing how much love went into growing the food. I admire you for having the courage to run with it! Do you plan to grow a garden yourself in addition to buying local?

  5. We are fortunate enough to have an excellent farm shop just a few miles away, they even mark up local food miles on the tickets of different products. When I was a student I read a quote “eat less, pay more.” and it has stuck with me for ….15yrs ish. Even as a student I bought less meat of a better quality.

  6. I also read Barbara Kingsolver’s book and was truly inspired by it. We have some raised vegetable beds in our yard and some local farms that we visit in the summer. Unfortunately our Ottawa, Canada summers provide a relatively short growing season so I do purchase from the grocery store’s produce section many months of the year. I will always buy local over imported food, but it is just not always available.

  7. It seems I should check out that book. I was just at the farmers market yesterday and had the best apple salad of my life. I also was able to can sauce and salsa with my mom this year. It was a ton of work, but it is really worth it.

  8. I am DYING to do this with you, Cheryl. As we’ve talked about, it will be a particular challenge since I live with other people who I know won’t really get on board. But here’s my master plan: get everyone to read Kingsolver’s book, then the following year try to put the plan into action.

    It would help if they would all eating so much meat. I can understand not wanting to give up meat, I truly can; but not a day goes by without meat in this house. THAT I don’t understand. The biggest problem is that it takes up SO MUCH ROOM in the freezer. We do purchase quality, local meat, but when you buy a quarter cow at a time…. there goes your freezer space. I have been doing a lot with my dehydrator and juicer though. I’ve juiced SO much kale to add to soups all winter, and our squash should all be big enough just about the time local produce disappears from the markets. About 45 minutes away, there’s an indoor farmer’s market that’s open all year. I have to check that out, and see if it’s legit or if it’s more like a craft fair with a few produce vendors carrying Florida citrus.

    We did freeze more than usual this year, though, and did some canning. Freezing is just so much easier.

    This is also going to be the year I request a light table for Christmas, so I can finally start growing food inside in the winter. I like the idea of a greenhouse or a glass box, but we don’t get nearly enough sun in the winter here.

    If I can get some plants going in the winter, and get some stuff from that year-round market to supplement, I’ll be on board with you! Maybe the following year, the rest of my family will be as well (ha! I scoff; I doubt).

    I like your idea of giving Caleb a different cheat every week to get him into it. I’m thinking…. bananas, coffee, spices…. I’m not going to be able to source flour and oats locally, unfortunately. But I do order my coffee through a direct trade program that encourages fair employment and environmentally sustainable practices. The bananas…. not so much. 😦

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