Monday, April 26, 2010

Day 98: Support Local Farmers

One of the easiest things you can do to improve your eco-footprint and give back to the community is to support local farmers.

Here are some pictures from when Tony and I went on the Piedmont Farm Tour yesterday.

Kids checking out a freshly laid egg.

Here is a list of concrete, practical things you can do:

  1. Eat more vegetables and simple foods. Get used to the taste of "real food".
  2. Buy your veggies at the farmer's market. This will ensure you're getting stuff that's local, seasonal, and "real".
  3. Get locally-produced, humanely raised meat instead of buying "the cheapest" at the grocery store. Can't afford to do that? Try half-servings or meatless days then. No biggie.
  4. Check out for a super list of farmer's markets and farms in your area. You can search by zip code.
  5. Patronize food co-ops and natural grocery stores if you have these. Check listings for towns nearby also. Twice a month Tony and I find ourselves driving through Richmond, VA. We love to stop at Ellwood Thompson's as we're driving through, as a treat. I think of it as "my" grocery store now, even though it's not really in our neighborhood!
  6. Join a CSA. (Community supported agriculture - these are "clubs" where you get a box of fresh local veggies each week. There are also meat CSAs.)
  7. Call up local farmers and ask about delivery options. I do this every week.
  8. Talk to the farmers about their livelihood. This is a wonderful way to get connected. Farmers have so much to offer in terms of nutritional knowledge, information about pesticides, economic implications of what they're doing, reasons for why they grow things this way or that, etc. It is really interesting to consider all the factors that go into growing food and (hopefully) making a profit from that. While you're at it, visit local farms. Usually local farmers are thrilled to have people interested in what they are doing. Call up a farmer, especially one who has a web site or a consistent presence at the farmer's markets, and ask for a tour. The worst they can say is 'no'.
  9. Watch Food Inc or Fresh and learn about how the industrial food system works (hint: it's probably not what you thought).
  10. Talk to the manager at your grocery store about stocking more local produce and locally-raised (non-CAFO) meat. Ask what it takes to get this done. Find out what the problems are with doing this. Just talk plainly with the manager. You don't have to be a jerk about it, just find out the problems so you can figure out if they're fixable, and if so, by whom.
  11. Take more pleasure in the act of feeding yourself and feeding your family. Think of food as fuel (tasty, tasty fuel) and really be discriminating about what you put in your body and in your kids bodies as their fuel.
  12. Commit to making each meal yourself, from the best ingredients you can find. Realize that this might take longer than popping something in the microwave or assembling things from processed packages so that it looks like you're "cooking". Learn to be ok with this new time commitment. This is a tough one. Maybe the toughest on the list.
  13. Experiment, and embrace the disasters when they come. You may buy 3 pounds of kale from a farmer (that doesn't sound like so much, does it?) and then you are stuck eating kale for a month. Kale burgers, kale soup, kale quiche, kale nuggets... Find some humor in it.
  14. Start slowly. Make one change a week. As you run out of something in your kitchen or in your pantry, make a conscious decision about whether you will restock that item. Be mindful of your choices, and be deliberate. You don't need to napalm your current kitchen. Just make a change here or there, and add more changes as you go.
  15. Start your own garden. Start with something easy like peas or lettuce or zucchini. Or herbs! Anyone can grow herbs. Try rosemary or thyme. I have the worst black thumb and I can still grow this stuff! Ask a farmer how to get started, or buy their seedlings to get started. Don't worry about sounding like a newbie.

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