Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Step Twenty-Three: Find a Local Farmer's Market, CSA, or Friendly Gardener

Buying locally helps keep money in your community's economy, encourage responsible business practices, and  often means less waste and chemicals put into production and shipping. Nowhere is this more true than with local food. When you can talk to the person who grew what your family eats, you'll get a level of assurance that beats any organic logo or freshness guarantee. Local farmers markets and CSAs  (Community Supported Agriculture) provide so many blessings to so many different groups that it doesn't make sense not to patronize them. Of course, that's if you can find one in your area.

Since local farmers markets tend towards the grassroots in their organization, it can be tricky to find one in your town or county if you don't know where to look. There are several directories and resources at the end of this post to start off with, but you can also check bulletin boards at health food stores, city hall, and locally-owned establishments. Additionally, look around your neighborhood to see who has fruit trees, a garden, chickens, or a beehive. It's likely that these people are willing to share their bounty, either to keep the food from rotting off the tree, for a little help with the work, or for a small fee. Often hobbyists with enough to share are enthusiastic in their passions, and would be glad to help you turn a corner of your yard into a food-producing Eden. If your neighborhood is devoid of food gardens and small farm animals, check your local library, Craigslist, and national directories to find seed exchanges, gardening groups, chicken clubs, and more. Give shyness the night off and make some friends who are as passionate about what they do as you are.

One of the greatest things about local food is the community that grows alongside it. And just like with the soil, the more love you put into community, the richer it grows.

Local Harvest
A national directory of farmers markets, CSAs, local food restaurants. Also has forums and photos. One of my favorite go-to sites.

Kind of like shopping online, but for fresh produce, and instead of delivering to your door, they assemble your order and bring it to a food community site. An interesting concept, but not available nationwide.

Pick Your Own
An international directory of Pick Your Own farms. These are places where farmers have raised vegetable, fruit, and herb crops, but leave them on the plant until customers show up and pick everything themselves. Quite a fun outing for a date or family night.

Neighborhood Fruit
It's the Craigslist of fruit trees. People who have too much fruit (and anyone who's not a farmer but has a fruit tree does) list their trees and let neighbors come pick for free. There are even trees listed on public land, and the site lists herbs, vegetables, and nuts as well.

A national directory of local egg producers and stands. With this kind of local food, you can ensure the chickens are truly free-range and well-loved, as many people consider their laying hens to be pets who just happen to pay a nutritious rent.

First time reading about a hundred steps to zero waste? Go here for the introduction and index.

P.S. If you are very interested in local food, I highly recommend Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver. She and her family eat only local food (within a five hundred mile radius, if memory serves, but most of the food is homegrown or bought from neighboring farms) for one year; it is a fascinating look at regaining a sense of the seasons, how delicious whole foods can be, and learning respect for the bounty the earth provides.

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