Last week I talked about my decision not to have a garden this year. Well, it wasn’t exactly a decision that I wanted to make, it was more or less made for me when I had a stupid muscle spasm. I realized that a lot of people are unable to have a garden for one reason or another, and so I decided that this year, in keeping with my theme of getting back to basics I would search out the wonderful local offerings that are provided in my area.
When I started my local food journey eight years ago, I had no idea where to begin. How do you find food grown where you live? Can’t I just go to the grocery store and call it good? Well, yes and no.
We are lucky that the grocery store local to us offers a lot of products that are sourced in Maine. I wanted to go deeper though. I wanted to know who my farmers were. I wanted to see their farms; I wanted to be able to ask them questions.
The first place that I turned to was Local Harvest.
This website has so much wonderful information. You can find farms, farmers’ markets, co-ops, CSA’s (community supported agriculture), and everything in between.
I absolutely love Farmers’ Markets. They are a wonderful place to build relationships with your community, as well as with the farmers that provide the food. It doesn’t hurt that it is a positive economic experience for your community.
Keeping those dollars in your community is so important, especially with the nature of the economy today. For every dollar that you spend at a local business (farmer or otherwise), 68% stays in the community, whereas at a non-local store only 43% stays in the community.
Why so much emphasis on local? What about organic?
I’m glad you asked! The thing about organic is, it is still a large scale operation and certified by the USDA. Do I think organic is wrong? Absolutely not! But, I do think that most people don’t really understand all the information that comes attached to that “certified organic” label.
The top of my list is that it is very difficult and incredibly expensive for a small farm to get an organic certification. The red tape that is involved is lengthy, and it is usually cost prohibitive for small farms to even bother trying. I know that a lot of the farms that we buy from are not certified organic, but they use methods that are organic. They rotate where they plant different vegetables, they use compost from their own farm to add nutrients back into the ground, they don’t spray pesticides, but they are still not “certified organic.”
I always choose local first, because then I can talk to the farmer, find out if what their farm is doing matches up with my concerns, and I am even able to visit the farm if I want.
Now, I do still buy organic. I’m not saying to not buy organic, but you need to know what you are buying. A lot of people associate organic with no chemicals, but that isn’t the case, there is an approved list of chemicals that organic farmers can use on their plants. Also, there is an entire list of non-organic substances that can be included in the organic label. It is all about educating yourself!
Now that I have gone on an entire tangent about organic food, let us get back to local!
If you don’t have any local farmers’ markets or CSA’s available in your area, the next best thing to do would be to try and start some sort of bulk buying club with some other families or people in your area. You can often find great options for local food, but maybe there isn’t a way to get the local food to the people. Of course, this takes a lot of leg work, and can be incredibly time consuming, but if you are passionate about local food, and are unable to start with your own back yard, a bulk buying club is a great idea.
Local food has come a long way in the last five years. New farmers’ markets are springing up every year, and I think it is wonderful for the communities that are lucky enough to have one. I believe that good food helps to build a community, and it can be the backbone of yours as well.
Do you support local farms? Are you a member of a CSA or do you attend a farmers’ market regularly?