Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Conscious Shopper Challenge: Buy Local

The next few weeks of the Conscious Shopper Challenge will focus on greening our groceries. Here's the next challenge:

BUY LOCAL

My farmers' market. Isn't it amazing?

Last week, I challenged you to eat seasonally, so this week's challenge may seem a little redundant. It was intentional, I promise. Although the last challenge and this one are related, they are not the same, for two reasons:
  1. You can eat seasonally without eating locally. For example, the produce at the grocery store Aldi is almost always in season, but it probably wasn't grown by a small local farmer.
  2. Eating seasonally is all about produce, but there's more to local eating than the fruits and vegetables.

I think seasonal eating is a good entry point into local eating. You start with one portion of your overall diet, get used to shopping at the farmers' market, and then branch out into other food categories. So once you've completed the last challenge, here's how you can start on this one:

BABY STEPS

  • Locate your nearest farmers' market. Find out when it opens in the spring and when it closes in the winter, and make a point to make regular visits throughout the growing season.

JOGGING STRIDE

  • Shop at the farmers' market. Start with your produce, then move on to eggs, and finally meat. If there are few options for sustainably raised meat at your farmers' market, check out other sources such as Eat Wild.
  • Get to know the farmers and their growing methods. Ask questions: How do you manage bugs? How do you fertilize? How big is your farm? What do you grow? In my opinion, the number one reason to shop at the farmers' market over the grocery store is that you can really know where your food comes from.

MARATHON RUNNER

  • Look for local sources for the other categories in your diet: dairy, nuts, and grains. One caveat here though - not everything grows well in every area. If you can't find locally grown rice, it may be that rice doesn't grow well where you live. And if you do finally find rice, it may be that the farmer used environmentally-taxing methods to get it to grow. Be realistic about how local you can eat, or be prepared to cut some foods out of your diet.
For more information on local eating, check out these past Booth posts:

7 comments:

Wendy (The Local Cook) said...

This is something I really have a passion for. On my main blog, The Local Cook, I write about cooking with produce. I also have a secondary blog for West Michigan (called EatLocalWestMichigan) that promotes the "other" categories you're talking about. It's so important for food security and economics. And, of course, it tastes much better!

Wendy said...

Did you know that meat is also grown "seasonally"? Not so much here in the US, where much of our meat is factory farmed, and everything is avaialable all of the time in the grocery stores, but in a traditional farm seting, the meat was seasonal. Chicken is a summer food. Fresh pork and beef were fall foods, and cured meats were winter foods.

Here in Maine, the "shrimp" season is mid-winter, and it's awesome each year to get shrimp fresh off the boat at only a couple of dollars per pound.

Eating seasonally is a good jump-off point to eating locally, and once one gets started, eating locally is not difficult at all - and it just tastes better!

Sense of Home said...

I buy local whenever I can. The farmer's market during growing season, eggs from a local woman, chickens from a friend, beef from family, honey and grain from a local producer. I wish I had your farmer's market though, ours is pretty small and sells mostly what I grow in my own garden. Since our growing season is pretty short I preserve a lot so that we can eat local (mostly) all year round.

-Brenda

Erin aka Conscious Shopper said...

@Wendy - I did know that, but thanks for adding it for other readers. Eggs too have a seasonal aspect - chickens lay less in the winter.

@Brenda - Isn't my farmers' market amazing? The downside of it though is that there isn't much by way of organic or sustainably grown produce - to find those I have to go to smaller markets.

Green Bean said...

Another thought is CSAs. I went to farmers markets for years but the last 8 months have been a crazy blur of major fundraising campaigns, moving and more. I realized that I cannot always make the trek to the farmers market and, so, instead, opted for a CSA. They are local, organic, and fabulous. I'm very happy with them and while I do sometimes miss the opportunity to choose that the farmers' market presents, it is nice to to know that I can still eat local AND seasonal and only have to drive to the park to pick up my produce.

As far as other staples, it took me quite a while in the beginning to figure out what was from where. Keep your eyes open. Suddenly, you'll start noticing things like local beans sold at the pumpkin patch, olive oil sold at the winery and so on. Also, memorize brands and go to locally owned stores which are usually smaller and more likely both to stock locally produced products and to respond to your pleas for them to do the same.

Daisy said...

I love my farmers' market. Wisconsin being Wisconsin, I miss it terribly in the winter. Now that I've learned to flash freeze and I'm starting to can, my family will get more local produce in one way or another all year long.

Condo Blues said...

I got a CSA this summer and it was a great way to eat local! I'll be eating local veg for quite awhile because I froze what we couldn't eat from week to week. I won't be eating local year around because there are a couple of months when nothing grows here but I like stretching my local summer veg past summer!

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