It’s That Time of Year!
Yep, Spring is here, and it’s time for a short return to my favorite topic: local food.
Why now? Well, because in most places, local food is growing again, and this is a good time to jump in and start preparing for a summer full of wonderful local goodness.
Locally produced foods have many advantages over anything you can get in the grocery store. For one thing, not having to ship them far (or at all) means that you drastically decrease or totally eliminate the carbon footprint from shipping. Did you know that in the commercial food industry uses up to ten calories of energy to create one calorie of food? Yeah, not exactly sustainable, is it? Planting, harvesting, packaging, and especially transportation, all use a tremendous amount of fossil fuels. But did you also know that most pesticides and fertilizers actually have fossil fuels as one of their main ingredients? In fact, this accounts for a stunning 31% of all fossil fuel’s used in food production. Do you really want to eat that? Here’s another one from a UK article:
“One shopping basket of 26 imported organic products could have travelled 241,000 kilometres and released as much CO2 into the atmosphere as an average four bedroom household does through cooking meals over eight months.”
Seriously, ouch. And those are organic products, meaning that they don’t include nearly as much fuel for pesticides and such. A basket of standard items would be much higher in CO2 emissions than this. Pretty scary, eh? Food production is one of the largest fossil fuel consumers in the world, and we haven’t even discussed all the other harmful side effects of commercial food production–which would make many, many blogs in and of themselves.Fortunately for all of us, there’s a way to side step all these problems, and it just so happens to be tasty and rewarding as well! Local food (bet you never saw that coming) not only doesn’t have the transportation and packaging costs, a lot of it is organic, and therefore doesn’t have the pesticide and fertilizer costs either. In addition, buying local food supports local farms, farmers, and economies. Oh, and the food itself is fresher, more nutritious, and tastes much better. Hard to beat, isn’t it?
So this summer, make a promise to yourself to eat more local food. Let’s face it, it’s not often that you get to do something for yourself, the planet, and your community all in one go, so what are you waiting for?!
Here are some easy ways to find local produce:
- Farmer’s Markets provide a great variety to chose from. They usually host many different farms, and thus you can find all sorts of tasty surprises, and meet lots of local farmers while you’re at it! The farmer’s markets in my area usually have several different produce farms represented, as well as meat and egg producers, flower shops, bakeries, and sometimes even local dairies. They always seem to have the air of a festival, and a trip to the farmer’s market never seems like real shopping at all. Bear in mind, however, that not all farmer’s markets are created equal. Some cater more to people selling soap and jewelry more than actual farmers, and some are just too small to be useful. If at first you aren’t impressed, look for others in your area. Here’s a great site to help you find markets in your area.
- Community Supported Agriculture, more commonly known as CSA, is a program where you contract with a specific farm for a weekly garden share, which contains whatever the farm is harvesting at the moment. Usually they will provide you with a list of what you’re likely to get, but of course such things are dependent on the crops themselves, so you never really know. CSAs are a great way to get to know a local farm. Many of them have ‘working shares’ where you pay a discounted price, but help with harvesting at some point. Depending on the farm and where it’s located, garden shares don’t usually have quite the variety that a full-blown farmer’s market would offer. On the other hand, learning how to cook with whatever is in your box each week is an adventure all on it’s own. Also, many CSA farms also have eggs, meat, and sometimes even dairy products for sale as well. If you’re interested in CSAs, here’s some more information about their advantages. Check here to find a CSA in your area.
- If neither of these works for you, check out your grocery store for local foods. This is becoming more and more common, which is fantastic, but the quality isn’t quite the same in most cases, and the feeling isn’t as good as putting your money right into the hands of a farmer.
Any way you choose to do it, eating local is the way to go! In Colorado, the markets won’t be getting underway for another week or two, but I’m already digging out my cloth bags and dreaming happily of fresh lettuce and baby asparagus shoots. Do you have any favorite memories of local food? Or, do you have any questions about farmer’s markets, CSAs, or anything else pertaining to the subject? Please ask in the comments below! As a lifelong eater of local food from many sources, I would be more than happy to answer any questions you might have. In the meantime, I’m going to find myself some fresh greens.