Hey Everyone! Today I am going to talk about some tricks I have discovered for going local. I know that sometimes it can be a challenge to find local food, so I am also going to go over how Sara and I go about it, and offer a few tips along the way!
I recently relocated to a coastal town in Connecticut. I thought my move would be an excellent opportunity to talk about the benefits and struggles of trying to eat local. Before I moved, I was already well in tune with the local food in my area. I knew where the best farmers markets were, what stores sold local products, and what CSA had the best produce. I knew where to buy local pasture raised meat and who had the freshest eggs. I also knew where to find the local food deals.
Well…lets just say when I moved to a new state…and different climate for that matter (going from GA to CT in the middle of winter is definitely a weather shock) all my local food knowledge went out the window! Since I no longer had my finger on the local food pulse I decided to use this opportunity to help people who are inexperienced with eating local, find locally grown and produced food in their area.
Here are a few tips and steps you can take when trying to eat local in your area…wherever that may be!
Do a Simple Internet Search
I started my local journey by simply searching the internet. I don’t know about you, but I am always amazed that sometimes you can just ask Google what you want to know, and it tells you! Honestly, all I did was type in “Local Food Connecticut” into my search engine and a wide array of options popped up. In fact, I found a company that will even deliver local food right to your door! But more on that later.
I guess what I am trying to say here, is that finding local food is not necessarily difficult. Sometimes finding the right option is only a click away (yes yes I know that was cheesy).
Ask Your Local Health Food Store
Another strategy for finding quality local food in your area is to check out your local health food, organic, “granola crunchy” store. These places are great. I have found one in every place I have ever lived, though admittedly they vary in size and quality. Despite that, they are always staffed by intelligent, helpful people who are well plugged into the local scene. Honestly, my best advice would be to just go in there and ask about local food. You might be surprised by the amount of information you get!
Join a CSA
Some of you may ask “what is a CSA?” Well let me tell you…if you do not already belong to one…go sign up immediately. These things are great! CSA stands for Community Supported Agriculture. Typically how a CSA works is that a farmer, or group of farmers, decide to get together and offer a certain number of “shares” to the public. In most cases this “share” entitles a person to a box of produce or other farm products. When you buy a share in a CSA you typically receive a box of fresh in season produce every week or every other week for a specified amount of time. The duration of the CSA is typically a set amount of weeks that correspond to a growing season. For example, you might be able to buy into a CSA where every week for 8 weeks in the summer you will receive a box of fresh local produce.
While this may seem like a neat idea you are probably wondering what the actual benefits are. First, in my experience, buying produce this way is cheaper than if you did it at your local farmers market or grocery store. While the price of CSA boxes can vary, I have found that the fruits and vegetables you get, are typically only a fraction of the price they would be at the grocery store. Also, since they are direct from the farmer, they are 1-2 weeks fresher then the vegetables you would buy in the store, which means…they don’t spoil as fast, which also saves you money. Finally, opening a CSA box can be fun! Since farmers provide only their freshest produce every week, you never get the same thing twice! Opening your box is like opening a surprise present! And trying to figure out what you are going to make with your beautiful fresh produce can be a great way to get your family excited about eating real food.
Check Out the Local Farmer’s Market
Another great way to buy local is to check out your local farmer’s market. I love farmer’s markets. Many of them operate on Saturday mornings and I find they can be a great activity to kick off your weekend. You get to be outside, walking around, talking to people, and even better….I have never been to a farmers market that did not also have local food vendors! And even cooler…they always sell interesting food to eat! I have been places where someone was selling crepes, brats, something called spicy cheese bread, and more! So to recap, by going to the local farmers market, you are supporting local farmers, buying fresh in season locally grown produce, saving money, and you get to eat neat street food….why wouldn’t you want to go!
Learn What Foods are in Season
When you decide to eat local, you are also deciding to eat food that is in season. Why is this you ask? I mean my local grocery store always carries all types of food year round? The truth is, at the grocery store most of the produce is shipped in from another part of the world. While this does a wonderful job at providing an incredible amount of diversity year round. It also results in food that is not at it’s freshest and have lost many of it’s nutrients, since it may have been grown in Chile, picked 2 weeks ago, a traveled on a truck, boat, and plane to reach the market. Also, the natural resources that went into shipping that food are detrimental to the environment. Think of all the gas that it took to get those avocados to your grocery store from South America. Buying local food that is in season, it is much more likely to be fresh, packed full of nutrients, and taste better then food that had to be shipped half way around the world. Second, buying local is more sustainable since it did not require as many natural resources to be consumed in the shipping process.
Look for Local Foods at Your Local Grocery Store
In my experience, some grocery stores make an effort to stock local products. If you keep your eyes peeled, you may be able to buy local meat and produce at the stores you already frequent. While some stores may have local food sections, typically I have found them mixed in throughout the store. The key to identifying these local food items, is to read the grocery store labels. If they food is locally sourced, this information will usually be highlighted in some way.
Plant a Garden
At the end of the day the easiest way to eat fresh local produce is to grow it yourself! I mean…how much more local can you get then your own backyard?!?! Growing your own food has the added benefit of you know exactly where it came from and what was done to it. I mean, honestly…is there a better way to know what chemicals were or were not used on your tomatoes then if you apply them yourself?
After all my searching I finally decided on how I would begin my adventure with local Connecticut produce. I decided to order a Harvest Box from the company CT Farm Fresh. These guys are great! They run a website where you can shop for local food items that range from everything from a CSA to individually sold fresh produce items, to pasture raised meat, to artisan cheeses and bread. While all this sounds great, the best part of this company is that when you order the food they drive around to the various farms and collect it for you…and even better….they bring it to your door! I mean how easy is that! My first experience with them was great and I will definitely be coming back for more.
Here are the items that came in my box of local winter food:
- Jerusalem Artichokes (sun-chokes)
- Green Leaf Lettuce
- Shitake Mushrooms
- Spaghetti Squash
- A soup mix (filled with fresh herbs and vegetables)