We don’t stay in bed late, we don’t sit around in jammies foraging for breakfast food – we get ready early, and with market bags in hands, we run out the door in order to make it to the local farmers market before fresh eggs and our favorite vegetables are sold out. Then, we go to the local bagel and deli shop (not Starbuck’s) and have our Saturday morning breakfast sandwiches (much cheaper than Starbuck’s, mind you) made by a guy who’s been up since four in the morning to serve his local patrons. Can’t get better than spending the morning in my local neighborhood, supporting the farmers and local businesses. Not only that, shopping at the farmers market on a sunny Saturday morning beats spending an hour or so inside a chilled supermarket (I am always ‘freezing’ in my supermarket) trying to find fresh produce that didn’t travel thousands of miles.
Initially, I thought of joining the Local Harvest’s Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) farm share program. But I didn’t get my act together in time and I was too late for this season to sign up. So, I was ‘stuck’ with going to the farmers market to buy my own produce and not have them delivered in a box, produce already picked out for me.
But, it turned out, going to the farmers market has been the best thing for me and my family. It got my whole family involved in buying food and asking questions about where their food come from and not just eating “something Mom brought home from where ever she went to get them.” I had no problem getting them excited about eating what I cooked before. But now that they help pick out the ingredients, they really appreciate what I cook with them and how they taste.
These are pictures of some goodies we’ve bought and cooked this summer, so far. Look at the rich and scrumptious colors of these beautiful local produce, driven from 50 miles away or less, on Saturday mornings from the farm. You can imagine how sweet they were. My daughter tasted some new and ‘weird’ looking vegetables, like, beet (still getting used to them), raw sugar snaps, and the sweetest organic carrots, biggest blueberries, constant supply of Fuji apples (her favorite kind), and today, she’ll try purple potatoes. Some of these didn’t make it pass noon on Saturdays like the cherry tomatoes or the blueberries.
Here are the differences between the two concepts of eating local….. just in case you were so inspired by the pictures above. (hint, hint,….pssstttt…..eat local. preferably, organic……they taste much better because they didn’t travel for days or thousands of miles to get to your table….pssst…..you are supporting the local farmers…..pssttt…it all good, if not better.)
According to Local Harvest,
Farmers’ markets are one of the oldest forms of direct marketing by small farmers. From the traditional “mercados” in the Peruvian Andes to the unique street markets in Asia, growers all over the world gather weekly to sell their produce directly to the public. In the last decade they have become a favorite marketing method for many farmers throughout the United States, and a weekly ritual for many shoppers.
In a farmers’ market, a group of farmers sell their products once or twice a week at a designated public place like a park or parking lot. Some farmers’ markets have live entertainment. Shopping at a farmers’ market is a great way to meet local farmers and get fresh, flavorful produce.
If you go to Local Harvest website and put in your zip code, you’ll be able find a farmer’s market near you.
My farmers market has a fishmonger from Long Island whose catch include fresh oysters, scallops, squid, porgies, cod, fluke, clams, steamers, and other fresh catch from the day before. I really tested my oyster shucking skills with these.
We also buy fresh eggs (I ate a raw egg that hatched the day before and it was very sweet. Ewwww…how can you do that. you might say? I didn’t have to worry about Salmonella since the eggs never touched a conveyor belt or went near a processing facility with a possibility of contamination. I do not recommend for you to try this at home but I felt confident that these eggs were not tainted), grass fed, free roaming, and humanely treated meats with no antibiotics or hormones. I didn’t realize how ‘meat’ should taste until I tasted meat from these farms. We also buy local wine made in the Hudson Valley and they compliment whatever we cook beautifully. And they didn’t travel all day way from California or France.
Community Supported Agriculture
Over the last 20 years, Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) has become a popular way for consumers to buy local, seasonal food directly from a farmer. Here are the basics: a farmer offers a certain number of “shares” to the public. Typically the share consists of a box of vegetables, but other farm products may be included. Interested consumers purchase a share (aka a “membership” or a “subscription”) and in return receive a box (bag, basket) of seasonal produce each week throughout the farming season.
This arrangement creates several rewards for both the farmer and the consumer. In brief…
Advantages for farmers:
Advantages for consumers:
- Eat ultra-fresh food, with all the flavor and vitamin benefits
- Get 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
- Develop a relationship with the farmer who grows their food and learn more about how food is grown
It’s a simple enough idea, but its impact has been profound. Tens of thousands of families have joined CSAs, and in some areas of the country there is more demand than there are CSA farms to fill it. The government does not track CSAs, so there is no official count of how many CSAs there are in the U.S.. LocalHarvest has the most comprehensive directory of CSA farms, with over 2,500 listed in our grassroots database. In 2008, 557 CSAs signed up with LocalHarvest, and in the first two months of 2009, an additional 300 CSAs joined the site.
Some drawbacks and how to handle problems.
There are some complaints about a few CSA farms where something happened and the produce was simply unacceptable. There might have been bad weather related problems with crop or business related problems with farmers. But those rare situations are what they called “shared risks” with CSA and if you are not comfortable with those possible risks (Local Harvest states in their website that these incidences are very rare but they exist) then, you may be better to go to local farmers market. If the potential for “not getting your money’s worth” makes you feel anxious, then shared risk may not be for you.