This spring is when I really started to think about buying local food and in-season produce . It never really crossed my mind as to where our food came from before. I love a good sale at the grocery store and use coupons regularily.
Then, one morning while having my coffee and looking out at the beautiful fields around my home, I started to think about it. I wonder where this coffee came from? Last fall we joined the Arbor Day Foundation (for $10 we got 10 free trees!) and received a panphlet promoting their shade grown, fair-trade coffee. I didn't realize lots of trees were cut to grow most types of coffee. Once I started thinking about food and it's sources I couldn't stop.
FARMER'S MARKETS ~ As I didn't know very much about local food or where it comes from, I thought the best place to start would be the farmer's market's. My first trip was an exciting one! I bought flowers, soap made from emu oil, homemade pasta, spice mixes, potatoes, onions, zucchini, tomatoes and lots more. I was careful to watch the farmer's signs to see where the food came from and was pleased to see that (most of the time) they'd advertise if it was from out-of-state. They were all very friendly and willing to discuss their wares and offer recipes.
PRODUCE STANDS ~ I also found a local produce stand, Mindy's Farm Fresh Produce 913-731-5365, which she run's out of her husbands business warehouse. Her husband, father and brother and other family all have farm's nearby and she sell's that produce here. So now, whenever we're low on fruit like watermelon or cantelope, I drop by and pick some up. So easy! She's open all through the week so I don't have to wait for a farmer's market day and she's located right by our local grocery store.
LOCAL EGGS ~ A friend of mine down the road has chickens and I buy her eggs at $2.00/doz. It's local, free range, grass fed, and I even know the chickens names! Free range organic eggs are around $3.22 at Sam's Club! Best of all, we love to visit her farm and play with the animals! There's always signs around and advertisements in the paper selling eggs so even if you don't have a friend with a farm, their easy to find. My friend has now begun to tell me how they slaughter and eat their roosters but I don't think I'm quite ready for that.. yet.
HOW TO FIND ~ So far, finding local food and in-season food is pretty easy here in the heartland. I'm not sure what I'm going to do once winter comes, but am reading about canning and preserving to see if maybe it's something I can do. I've also found a few good online guides http://www.localharvest.org/, http://www.eatwellguide.com/, http://www.fruitstands.com/ to help me where I simply type in my zip code and it tells me everything that's nearby.
HARVESTING/U-PICK ~ I'll be going peach picking soon and am hoping to pick apples in September. I also found a good guide for local u-picks http://www.pickyourown.org/. I also signed-up to help "glean the harvest" with our local St. Andrew's Society http://www.endhunger.org/. An article in the Family Circle '09 magazine on Garden-Variety Giving (pg. 73) inspired me to do this. Amy Grey, a mom who had too much left-over in her garden one year, donated it to the local food bank then started a non-profit called Back Yard Harvest.
MY LOCAL FOOD GUIDE ~ As I continue my journey this year, I'll share all my experiences here. I often hear how much time and effort it takes to figure this all out. Maybe by refering to my guide on Local Food on the right-hand menu it will make your journey to local or in-season food a little bit easier. It's affordable, easy and sooo delicious!
NEXT STEPS ~ Buying local meat; making home-made bread in 5-minutes, crock-pot yogurt, seasoning mixes from scratch; and signing-up with a CSA!