Currently, we are making do at the local grocery store as I cook my favorite recipes, but I sure do miss my old co-ops, farms and local produce!
I prefer to shop as much as possible from local sources for many reasons, but here are my top 3 reasons:
1. I know from whom I'm buying my food and from where my food is coming. I can get to know the farmers who produce my food personally, ask questions about growing/raising practices, understand how they raise their food and why, and I can see for myself how their farms are run. All of this brings me far more confidence than a grocery store label of "organic" or "cage-free," which can (and do) have loopholes. The more mass produced a food is, I've found it generally loses its quality; quality is often sacrificed in order to broadly increase production.
2. Local food is truly good for the environment. Smaller farmers generally have safer, more ecologically-minded farming practices which keep our land and water cleaner and safer. Furthermore, local food is not being transported across the US, countries or continents. It's just going "around the corner." Besides the savings of gas, transportation, packing, etc...you know what that means, right? It's FRESH! The fresher your produce, the more nutrients are in it and the better it tastes.
3. I believe smaller-scale, local farmers are vital to the health of our food system. I want to support them every opportunity I can.
So what exactly am I looking for?
- Nearby farms to source regular items like grass-fed milk and truly cage-free (or pastured) eggs.
- Farms somewhere in my region (up to 1-2 hours away) who are raising grass-fed beef, pastured chickens and some pastured, free-foraging pork as well. I'm willing to drive a distance if necessary, as these would be bulk annual orders. I'd like to purchase 1/4 cow, as well as stock my extra freezer with multiple whole chickens, and possibly a whole or half hog depending on breed.
- Local farmers' markets where I can purchase safely-grown local and organic produce (and perhaps also milk, beef and more). I don't yet have a garden and won't get it going until the spring.
- Ecologically-minded pick-your-own farms, where we can stock up on produce we aren't growing.
- A new co-op where I can purchase grains, beans and other pantry staples.
- Possibly a CSA or a local produce delivery during these months where I don't yet have a garden.
And, of course, the food—from wherever I get it—must fit within my budget! That's why I'm doing a lot of research and following a lot of leads. This way I can find the best quality for the best price and find foods that will work in my budget.
Here is how I am finding these sources:
- Using the internet and sites like Local Harvest and Eat Local Grown to find farms and co-ops in my region.
- Networking via my new friends. I'm asking people that I meet what farms are in the area and other related questions. I've also asked these questions on a local facebook group I've joined. (By the way, that was also a great way to get advice on local doctors and dentists!) And I've just kept my ears open—for instance, just yesterday we were at a floor store choosing flooring for the house we are building, and the sales lady mentioned in the course of conversation that she lives next door to a farmer who sells fabulous local produce (her words). I immediately asked her for his name and address.
- Contacting farms via email, phone calls and visits (if they're close by), so that I can ask questions, check prices, meet the farmers and see the animals and how they are raised.
- Visiting the area farmers' markets. I'm able to purchase food as well as meet farmers who sell there. I can ask questions and ask about bulk orders. If they can't meet my needs, farmers know farmers and so they often can pass on the names of other farmers who may have what I'm looking for.
Are you currently searching for quality food in your local area? Do you have any tips or resources to share with us today?