A few years ago my husband and I started going to the farmer’s market every weekend. We had a new Puppy that needed to be socialized and I LOVE cooking so it was the perfect set-up. I learned how to eat in season and came to appreciate the value of fresh, local food.
I, once, loved the grocery store…The planning of the week’s menu. The mapping of the grocery store by food group. The strolling of each aisle, looking for new and exciting finds. (Sounds batty, right?)
I quickly learned the farmers market was even MORE intoxicating because there were fruits and vegetables that were new to me. Instead of finding the newest flavor of chips, I found myself searching for the perfect persimmon.
(No knock on chips, y’all- I still dig them…just not as much!)
But, time became a factor and I started to resent the 25 minute trip to the market every Saturday. (That’s 25 minutes- each way, y’all.)
I desperately wanted to support my local farmers but found it a challenge to dedicate the time. So I made a list and trudged back to the grocery store.
But, something changed. The PLU stickers were like spotlights…and I couldn’t ignore the fact that the majority of that food traveled from other COUNTRIES to make it to my plate.
What are PLU Numbers or PLU codes?
Purchase Lookup numbers/ codes are universal codes that identify a piece of produce and how it may be grown. You know…The are the little sticker on produce at the store? It contains the identifying number, the country of origin and other valuable info.
That’s when I realized I had to make a change.
I went a little ‘extra’ and established my own co-op but, that’s a story for another day…
Why should you eat Local?
‘Eat Local’ has become buzzword-ish…but, have you every really considered what it truly means? Most of our experience with ‘eating local’ or ‘eating in season’ has come from restaurants within our communities.
Think of a favorite restaurant that proudly boasts the word ‘Local’ in its name. Have you ever considered if the menu ever changes when the seasons do? Have you ever wondered how this restaurant gets certain food items year round when some of those vegetables are rare in your region?
Does this restaurant grow its own food? Purchase from the local farming network? Buy from a large national supplier?
Now, let’s consider your weekly family dinners. When everyone is gathered together, sharing meals and stories…What is on your plate? Do you have any vegetables? Any Meat?
Do you know where your veggies were grown -or- where that meat was raised?
What are the Benefits of Eating Local?
- Eating locally allows you to support local farmers and artisans within your own community. Have you ever heard the saying ‘when you shop small, a local business owner does a happy dance?’ It’s true. Farmers are hardworking people. Your dollar is making an impact.
- Buying locally grows the economy in your community. Spend your money where you live. Shop from your neighbors. You feel amazing…so do they. It’s a win-win!
- Shopping small farms cuts transportation every cost. Have you ever searched the ‘sticker’ to see where your food was grown? Why do you need a tomato grown in another country when a farm 20 miles away grow award winning Beefsteaks? Think locally. It reduces gas and emissions.
- Buying from a local farmer means the food is FRESHER. Most fruits and veggies begin to lose their nutrients within 24 hours of being picked, robbing you of vital nutrition. Additionally, most of the commercially grown produce is harvested before becoming fully ripe so it ripens in transit as opposed to its tree.
Where do you start?
So, eating local is important but time is often the enemy for us all. How do you support small farmers while having the time and energy to feed your family? It’s easier than you think!
Assess your Time.
So, that may sound silly but, I quickly realized that the time I spent going to the market was about the same as when I shopped at the grocery store.
How much time do you spend at the grocery store? Travel time, shopping time, menu planning, list making. It’s all time you can’t get back and it all counts.
What is your budget?
The one thing we often here is ‘we need to cancel our farm share because we are tightening the budget.’
This often puzzles me because the vegetables and the meat we get locally are the base of our weekly shopping…everything else is additional. We plan our meals around the weekly harvest.
When you shift your mindset you start with local produce and meat and expand from there. Over time, your grocery bill will reduce as will your trips to the store.
I’m proud to say, I my bi-monthly trip to the grocery store only includes cheese, wine, lemons and limes. And, tortillas. One cannot live in Texas and not have tortillas.
What is a locally conscious mindset?
A Locally Conscious mindset really cuts through the heart of the question ‘what is local?’ By educating oneself on that is happening in their own community is of vital importance.
With so much online interaction and access, we can spend an entire day, alone in our home, not see a single person but still interact with hundreds of different people.
As our world continues to evolve, and online transactions grow, it’s so incredibly easy to not have a clue what is happening in our own communities. But it is a VITAL part of who we are.
What is happening in your own community?
What does local really mean…to you?
The USDA National Agricultural Library acknowledges that ‘local’ is growing and selling/purchasing products within a limited geographical area.
But it fails to define what ‘limited’ truly means. Thus, opening the doors for restaurants and marketing companies to use the word LOCAL as a buzzword to draw in consumers that know no better.
It feels good to do good. When we buy local we know we putting good intentions into that purchase. Unfortunately, marketing companies know this and see green…in the form of our hard earned dollars.
So, what does ‘local’ mean to you? As you can see, there is no right or wrong answer. What feels right for you?
“One definition that has become nearly ubiquitous is ‘100 miles.’ The phrase is borrowed from the 2007 book by Alisha Smith and J.B. MacKinnon, which documented the couple’s attempt to only eat foods grown within 100 miles of their apartment.”https://vinepair.com/wine-blog/how-do-you-define-local/
We are blessed to live in an area with several farms around us and most of our offerings come to us within 35 miles.
My definition from local may differ from yours. That’s what is so great about it…it’s YOU that determines local. You just want to be sure your definition is in line with those you support.
So, hopefully, I’ve convinced you WHY to eat local. Now, let’s discuss where to start to eat local.
Assessing your options
Shop the Farmers Market. Do you have a farmers market close to your home? How many miles does the market allow their vendors to stay within and still be considered local? Check their website and ask questions.
Consider joining a CSA. (Community Supported Agriculture.) A traditional CSA is a program that a farmer offers to its members. Members (often) prepay for Farm shares in exchange for weekly harvest throughout a particular season. The farmer, essentially, agrees to grow for members and the members typically share in the responsibility of the harvest.
In years where there are bumper crops everyone shares in the abundance. On the flip side, the member is often taking the risk of the season with the farmer. If something catastrophic occurs, the member runs the risk of getting less than their money’s worth.
Look at the Local Farm Stand. From my experience, some of the larger farm stands may grow one or two items of their own but may ship in a large percentage to supplement the few items they grow.
On the other hand, I have a dear friend who has a farm stand in front of her family farm. All of their items are home grown and you can see the farm from the public space. They can tell you what varieties they are growing and can offer stories about the origin of the seed. Everything comes from within half a mile of where it’s sold.
All very different situations. Both equally important in the overall picture. Both perfect options for what you decide is best for your needs.
Food Cooperatives (Co-ops.)
Food cooperatives are worker and/or customer owned businesses that provide high quality grocery items to members. Usually either retail stores or buying clubs, all co-ops are committed to consumer education and supporting their local communities by selling produce grown from local farms.
Farm to Kitchen Collective.
Jack and I established the Farm to Kitchen in July 2015. We had ZERO clue what we were doing when we started. We knew we wanted to serve our community while supporting small, local farms that grew and raised responsibility.
We saw the hard work that went into farming and wanted a way to honor the people who committed to this profession. Part of our mission is to give back to this community and we do so through donations, seed money investments, crop replenishment, community gardens and more.
This year, we have taken an intern that will learn local supply chain and help us complete our Kid’s Cooking Collective, an inclusive program that teaching children how to gain kitchen confidence.
The collective is a hybrid of the CSA/ co-op model where we have members and sell shares. However, we pool from several farms so the member does not have to share any responsibility as they do in a standard CSA model.
I’m so grateful for the opportunity to be a stepping stone to helping hundreds of people in our community learn to develop a locally conscious mindset. All starting with a greater commitment to eat local.
Where do we go from here?
We encourage a world of connecting to the local farming community, shopping small and volunteering. By doing these things, you get a pulse on your community. I had no idea of the needs within my own community until I got active and involved.
I am privileged to have access to fresh, locally grown food when there are communities around us who do not. My mission is to unite people over delicious, healthful recipes and show them THEY have the power to make a difference in their own lives.
For my locals, please join us at www.FarmtoKitchenCollective.com for ordering information.