Eight Ways to Find Local Produce
I love this time of year, don't you? Everything is coming back to life after the cold dormancy of winter. It's like someone turned on the lights with all the vibrant color returning to the earth. One of the places that color returns to is our plates! We once again have all sorts of beautiful and delicious in season produce to choose from again. The tastiest and freshest produce comes from our own backyard, both figuratively and literally. So strap on your Ergo and take the kids out to find some local, flavorful fruits and vegetables. Below are eight ways to find produce grown locally.
Community Supported Agriculture
Community Supported Agriculture, also known as a CSA, is a wonderful opportunity to get to know some of your local farmers while sharing in their locally grown goodness. I decided to join a CSA one year and really enjoyed it. The way most of them work is you pay up front for a share of what the farm produces and receive weekly offerings of the fruits and vegetables they've grown. Usually this means you are getting organic produce as well but check with the farmer to be sure. It's a great boon for the farmer who is getting paid up front and can focus on bringing you high quality food. As a shareholder, you share in the benefits and risks of the farmer. The year I joined, for instance, the farm had a grave grasshopper problem which resulted in some ruined crops. Alternatively, the farm could have had a bumper crop, and we would have enjoyed extra from that crop.
See if your area has a community garden nearby. A community garden takes many forms but the basic gist is a plot of land that members of the community work together. Sometimes you pay for a set piece of land that you tend, sometimes you work a plot together alongside others and split up the bounty, and sometimes the garden is a charitable project with the produce being donated to those in need. I love the idea of working a community garden with your kids to show them where their food comes from as well as working together with others.
If you have a yard, even a small yard, you can grow your own fruits and vegetables. You can start with something small and hearty and see how it goes. We had our first home garden last year and loved having dinner as a result of our own efforts. Some things didn't quite grow but many of the plants did! My then 3 year old really loved the process and looked forward to going out every evening to water and pick the vegetables with daddy. We have enlarged our garden this year, and I'm looking forward to enjoying our own home grown produce.
One of the big indications that summer is coming is the opening of the local Farmer's Markets. I love strolling down and checking out the various vendors and their wares. What is extra special about the Farmer's Market is you can walk right up and talk to the person who grew the food and ask questions. My local Farmer's Market sells organically grown produce as well as grass fed beef, good quality local eggs, artisan cheeses, seafood, free range organic chicken in addition to handmade soaps and lotions, gluten free bakery items and fresh roasted coffee. It's an experience with all the people, samples to taste, unique crafts as well as a time to enjoy the fresh air and sunshine.
Foraging for food, or wildcrafting, is a bit of a lost art. It requires some knowledge of what is safe to eat in your area and the rules of foraging. Research beforehand and then head out and collect some wild edibles for your family. Not only can you pick dinner, you can identify herbs to use medicinally as well. A fun game we enjoy playing with our 4 year old is Wildcraft. It has beautiful plant cards to help internalize what different herbs look like.
Further Information: Foraging for Food - The Rules, Dandelion Flower Tea, Foraging Pin Board, Foraging Info and Recipes, Wild Harvests, Rules of Foraging, Monthly Foraging Guide, Wildcrafting for Beginners
I wanted to try our hand at creating an herb garden inside so I ordered an indoor herb garden seed kit this year. With a sunny window and some water, hopefully we'll have lots of beautiful and delicious herbs to enjoy soon. Container gardening is an excellent way for the apartment dweller, or anyone without a proper yard, to have a garden.
You may be able to even get local produce at your grocery store. Places like Whole Foods, Earth Fare and your local health food stores will often have specially marked produce, eggs and meat/seafood that comes right from within your community. Oftentimes they will list the farm it came from and/or how many miles away it came from so you will know exactly what they mean by "local". Ask around to find what stores in your area carry local fare.
Make a fun day trip out of visiting a local berry picking farm and let the kids go to town picking to their hearts content. You'll enjoy delicious fresh picked goodness and a beautiful day on the farm, too. Stock up and freeze some of your bounty for a fresh local treat in the winter months.