I can remember eating produce out of my grandmother’s yard and it tasted NOTHING like the stuff in the grocery store. Picking an organic fruit or vegetable right off the plant when it’s sun warmed and ripe is a sensual and fascinating experience. When we consider that the produce at the grocery store is usually grown with chemicals and usually picked before it’s ripe – and often ripened by having gas pumped through it (gag!) – the difference is no big mystery. So if we want the highest quality foods we should consider other sources.
Advantages of Local Sourcing
* Generally, the food is organic, although not always. It’s important to ask.
* Your food will be seasonal, which is a good thing. The longer a food has to be stored or the greater the transport distance, the less nutritious it will be. And, if food has to be transported great distances, it’s almost certain to have been picked before it’s ripe. Berries are a great example because they’re so easily crushed so it’s much easier to ship ‘green’, unripened strawberries than ripe ones that rot quickly.
* Eating locally supports your local economy and ensures more great spaces.
* Too, we are used to the bacteria, etc., in our local areas.
* And the longer the transport and storage time, the most possibility there is for toxins to creep into our food supply.
* Also, it’s wise to support local farmers to ensure their survival and help to keep their farms intact. The big agri-business farms are much less concerned about our health than small, local ones. I read that there are 2,000,000 farms in the US and 80% of those are family owned. We want to keep those families in business!
Yes, it’s more trouble but the pay-off in health for our families might be worth it for those of us who believe in prevention, rather than cure, when it comes to our health. And, of course, there’s the added pay-off of food actually tasting good!
Ways To Find Local Fresh Produce
#1. Farmers Markets
Local farmers truck in their product at a farmers market and it’s the easiest of these ways to get fresh goodies. And the shopper can choose what she wants but she will likely pay more than she will at the other methods listed below. Still, it’s almost always a better price than the grocery store and the food is almost 100% certain to taste better and be healthier. These sites below will help you.
* The National Farmer’s Market Directory
The NFMD claims that there are over 7000 farmers’ markets across the country and all you have to do is check their directory to find one near you. Actually, I am confident that there are many more than this because there are two that I frequent that aren’t on their lists.
* USDA’s National Farmers Market Directory
This site is very poorly done. The NFMD and Local Harvest (below) is far superior.
* Local Harvest
Local Harvest is loaded with information and we’ve mentioned in extensively below. It’s a gold mine and includes a newsletter and recipes.
#2. The CSA (Community Supported Agriculture)
The CSA is similar to a real estate time share. Of course, we’re buying local produce instead of a week in a resort but the concept is the same. There is no guarantee as to what you will get if you enroll but farmers do their best to make their customers happy. All of the CSAs I’ve heard of provide one bag/box of food per week.
And it’s not always about fruits, vegetables and herbs because there are CSAs for meat, cheese, eggs and other such farm products. Here’s what Local Harvest has to say about the advantages to both the farmers and the families who want fresh, healthy food:
Advantages for farmers:
- Get to spend time marketing the food early in the year, before their 16 hour days in the field begin
- Receive payment early in the season, which helps with the farm’s cash flow
- Have an opportunity to get to know the people who eat the food they grow
Advantages for consumers:
- Eat ultra-fresh food, with all the flavor and vitamin benefitsGet exposed to new vegetables and new ways of cooking
- Usually get to visit the farm at least once a season
- Find that kids typically favor food from “their” farm – even veggies they’ve never been known to eat (Moms. no doubt, especially like this one)
- Develop a relationship with the farmer who grows their food and learn more about how food is grown
Local Harvest has some great explanations of how the CSA works, questions to ask the farmer and tips to maximize your investment. If you’re interested in joining a CSA, be sure to read this valuable information so that you won’t be disappointed with your results.
#3. The Food Co-Op
A food co-op buys food in large amounts so that it can be sold more cheaply than the supermarkets. Plus, all the ones I’ve used sell only organic product, which is horribly expensive in the ordinary grocery store. Their prices are much cheaper than Whole Foods, by the way.
Do you want fresh, locally grown food, but don’t want to give up the convenience of a regular grocery store? There’s no need to wait for your closest mega-chain supermarket to carry the good stuff.
Food cooperatives are worker or customer owned businesses that provide grocery items of the highest quality and best value to their members. Coops can take the shape of retail stores or buying clubs. All food coops are committed to consumer education, product quality, and member control, and usually support their local communities by selling produce grown locally by family farms. Use our map to find one near you!
The image shown above is from one that is where I live. Depending on where you live, they may – or may not – be easy to find.
I buy from Big Organic almost every week. I pick up my order between 4-5 PM on Friday (hate the time, though – it’s in Friday Afternoon Rush Hour!) and there is no obligation. Here’s a sample of the selection from this week. And a good point: I’m discovering ‘new’ fruits and veggies. Example: I’ve never eaten napa cabbage before.
If you’d like to see prices, take a look at my co-op. Yours will be different, of course, unless you live near me (Hi, neighbor! :-), but it gives an idea of how they work.
U-picks are just what they sound like – you pick your own product from the field. It’s hard work but you can get really delicious, often organic, produce for a very small price compared to a grocery store. I’ve used u-picks many times for berries and they’re SO much better than Kroger or Publix!
U-picks are also a great experience for kids. It drives home the notion that food doesn’t grow in plastic bags. I just read a story about a boy of 8 who didn’t know why there was a cow on the side of the milk carton. Ouch!
A good site for finding u-picks is http://pickyourown.org. There are also listings for farmers markets and lots of other goodies – think cut your own Christmas tree or choose your own Halloween pumpkin out of the field.
I strongly suggest that you call ahead when dropping in on farms, etc. Things change -and sometimes drastically. You don’t want to drive 45 minutes to a farm and find that it’s no longer in this business.
5. Roadside & Farm Stands
We’ve all seen these on the side of a road, in a shopping center parking lot or even out of the back of a pickup truck. You can find some incredible treasures in these places, although not always.
Spring is coming so take some time to look around on all the great sites listed above and eat some fresh, local, organic produce. Your body and taste buds will thank you!