This week I picked up the smoked cuts of the half-hog I ordered from a local farm.
The fresh (meaning unsmoked) cuts have been in our basement chest freezer for about 3 weeks. This was one big pig. Eating locally and seasonally has been routine for us for years now, and even though I find it exciting and encouraging that local, seasonal food is getting more love than ever, I haven’t written about it here in a while because I thought my voice was getting lost in the crowd. But with the new year beginning, I thought I’d revisit the topic for those of you who might be new to the idea.
You might think it’s tricky to start eating locally in the winter, but once you start looking, you’ll be surprised how much local food is available, no matter what climate you live in. For instance, when I picked up my smoked pork, I was also able to buy a dozen eggs, and a pint of ice cream from a local dairy, all from the same farmstand. Different areas have different opportunities for local food sourcing, and availability of locally grown, raised, or produced food varies from region to region.
The popularity of local food has spurred many farmers to look at ways to lengthen the growing season, and the varieties of produce available continue to expand. When I first began this local food quest, many farmers grew nothing during the winter and early spring. New technology, and new thinking, has transformed the way many farmers define the “growing season”, and more than one local farm has fresh food available year-round now. Of course, if you live in a warmer climate, you will soon be seeing fresh fruits and vegetables available at farmstands and farmers’ markets near you. But eating locally does not have to only mean fruits and vegetables. Locally raised meats are another opportunity to support local farmers. Breads, baked goods, cheeses, sauces, pickles, and jellies are available from local small businesses as well. During the summer, it’s often possible for us to eat only locally produced foods.
Locally sourced food may be more expensive than its grocery store equivalents, but its advantages outweigh that disadvantage. Locally grown fruits and vegetables are fresher, more flavorful, and keep longer in the refrigerator. Locally raised meat is more flavorful than most of the meats in the grocery store, and locally raised animals are often more humanely raised than factory farmed meats. Locally produced baked goods, dairy products, and jams are made without artificial colors, flavors, or preservatives. Supporting our local economies benefits our communities. A dollar spent directly at a farmstand means a lot more to the farmer or small business than a dollar spent at a large grocery chain.
I’ve known some of the local farmers here for over 10 years, as sources for locally grown produce, and as sources for all kinds of locally produced products. We’ve belonged to a CSA for 10 years, and each year the farmer there works very hard to make her customers as happy as she can, and improve her farm. Each summer, we’ve gotten more vegetables than we can eat each week, which is an opportunity to put some aside for this time of year, by pickling or freezing them. All the farmers I know love farming, and only stop because they have no choice. They are as passionate about local food as I am.
If you’d like to start eating more local, seasonal foods, you’re going to need to do a little legwork first. You can start right here on this blog. I started this blog as a way to share our experience eating real food, primarily locally sourced, and seasonal. I’ve mentioned I don’t make New Year’s Resolutions, but if you do make them, why not take a look at eating locally and seasonally? I say locally and seasonally because the two really do go hand in hand. If you’re eating locally grown produce, you’re automatically eating what’s in season in your part of the world.
First, at the top of the page, start with “Eating Seasonally 101” and “What’s Real Food?”. If you’re still interested, use the search term “CSA” in the search field in the column on the right. The search will give you pages and pages of posts I’ve written about what’s in season at what time of the year (in New England, anyway), and what kinds of things I’ve done with all that food. With a little planning, and a sense of adventure, eating more locally is easy, fun, and rewarding in new ways all the time, even for us, after all these years.