Thursday, March 11, 2010

Buy Fresh, Buy Local

I’m going to assume since you’re reading this blog that deep down inside you believe in the need for environmentally conscious, locally grown food. If you don’t, you could just click over to something more your speed right now. I think the biggest stumbling block for all of us is reconciling the desire with the practicality. It’s just not that easy to find the good stuff and it’s not that easy to know if it truly is good stuff or just the same old stuff with a new label and a higher price tag.

It’s discouraging, but it’s not something we should give up on. The more we seek out and support local products, the more options will become available to us. If you want to incorporate local, fresh foods in to your life, but don’t have the land or knowledge or time to grow it yourself, than get yourself to a CSA. CSA stands for Community Supported Agriculture. These farms sell “shares” of produce which means that each week you stop by the farm or the designated pick-up locations (many CSAs have drop offs in the cities or suburbs) and receive your share of that week’s produce. You don’t have a whole lot of say in what you get, but that makes it kind of like Christmas each week. Besides how great is it that someone else did all the grunt work and you get the ultra-fresh veggies?

When you join a CSA, I promise you will discover fruits and vegetables you never knew existed. Many CSAs also offer information on how to prepare the things they grow. Some allow you to come to the farm and work off part of the cost of your share through your labor. This is a great way to learn about gardening. Some CSAs offer eggs, flowers, milk, and meats in addition to produce.

Another great benefit of a CSA is that you can meet like-minded people and come away not just with a box of fresh veggies, but some life long friends. So it’s really a win-win for everyone involved. To find a CSA near you check out Sometimes there’s a waiting list for a share, so if you think this is something you are even slightly inclined to get involved in, get your name on a list. And don’t think it’s too early in the season to start receiving produce. Despite the snow around us, spring is upon us.

Another way to find locally grown foods is to visit a Farmer’s Market. And be sure to talk to the “farmers” there. Ask questions and be skeptical of anything packaged or out of season. Not all Farmer’s Market organizers are very discerning when it comes to their suppliers. When you find real farmers who use organic methods, make every effort to support them. That means making a commitment to getting there each week. If that’s difficult for you, talk to them about other ways of buying their produce. Maybe they sell their products on additional days in other places or maybe they’d sell directly to you from their own farm. I think we get stuck in the grocery store mentality of our only options are the ones on the shelf in front of us. Speak up and you’ll appreciate the flexibility of buying directly from the farmers instead of the marketing specialists.
For those of you who live in Southern York County, let me be the first to tell you about a new Farmer’s Market starting up in my hometown – New Freedom. It begins this April on the third Saturday of each month. You can find it in front of the Red Caboose along the Rail Trail in “downtown” New Freedom from 10am-1pm. The organizers are just getting it together and are looking for more local farms to set up stands. If you or someone you know would like to apply for a spot, send me an e-mail and I’ll put you in touch with the right people.

I’d like to also let local readers know about another new opportunity to enjoy local foods that just turned up in our area. Well, actually it’s in Maryland, but since we basically hug the border around here, it feels like “our area”. There’s a new restaurant open just north of Hereford in the old Wagon Wheel Restaurant on the Susquehanna Trail. Souper Natural opened a few weeks ago and serves scrumptious soups, sandwiches and out of this world desserts made from locally and sustainably grown ingredients. They have fruit juice “sodas”, handmade breads, creative soups, and an inspired menu with reasonable prices. A friend and I recently had lunch there and couldn’t begin to describe the bliss experienced from their Blueberry Bread Pudding with Lemon Curd and Fresh Cream. Amazing. I watched as the elderly couple at the table next to us shared a Hot Fudge Sundae and were overcome with delight, so much so, that the other couple sitting with them relented and ordered one too. Wonderful place. I hope you’ll give them a try and help make Souper Natural such a success that more restaurants are inspired to follow their ways.

Finding local food is not always easy, but it’s the right thing to do not just for your mind and heart, but your stomach too!

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