We visit a local u-pick farm about 6 or 7 times a summer, and I freeze a lot of my veggies for winter, although it's so warm where I am, we generally don't have a problem getting most fruits and veggies year round. Even though I can get veggies like tomatoes year round (and we have hot houses in Arizona which supply a lot of the country), it doesn't stop me from enjoying the season that certain fruits and veggies ripen. Chiles and field-ripened tomatoes are probably the thing we look most forward to in the summer. You just can't beat the flavor of produce right out of the fields and eaten during their growing season.
You are right that we are a little spoiled -- I don't consider it that -- I consider it "making do" until the real stuff comes in.
I try not to get too worried about whether something is super-local, as in, "grown within the city limits" - because realistically, there isn't a lot of good, available, land for cultivation *within* a main urban centre (though - creative solutions can challenge this notion - backyard farming and rooftop gardens, for example).
But sometimes you just *can't* buy strictly-local. Like - wheat. It doesn't grow well in certain places. But it does store and ship well! Soooo fine, maybe it's unrealistic for me to expect that I can get wheat from "within 50 miles" - BUT i CAN get Canadian-grown or American-grown wheat - both countries produce a LOT of wheat. And THAT is the "closest wheat" i can get. And that is, therefore, what I *should* get. I should NOT be buying wheat grown in Europe or Asia, right? Why? When we grow so much of it here?
Or - apples. I live in orchard country. We grow apples and cherries - they are mainstays of our local economy. We can get "fresh" apples year-round here (because they "put them to sleep" in the packing house, and bring them out as needed - certain varieties like Fuji and Gala store so well, that you really wouldn't know the darn thing had been in cold storage for 7 months...). So. I should buy LOCAL apples. And yet - when I go to the main chain grocery stores here - what do I see? Apples from New Zealand. Apples from Oregon. Apples from all over the world - what? WHY? Why are we IMPORTING apples to eat here, when they are the thing we grow best, here?
It has always seemed to me, that a diet should be based sort of "primarily" on the foods that are locally-available - and then supplemented by imports. Trade makes good sense. I send my apples to California, they send me oranges. I send my cherries to Thailand, they send me jasmine rice. Trade makes sense.
What doesn't make sense, is eating an apple from halfway around the world... when I can see seventeen thousand of them hanging on the trees in the orchard across the street.
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Bunny, you are very correct that Chicago makes a lot of efforts to be "green". Many restaurants there have rooftop gardens, and even the big public library downtown has one. In fact, the market I shopped at in the park across from my apartment (Green City Market in Lincoln Park) stays open year round, they just move inside in the winter.
But a lot of the produce, at least when I lived there, at that market still came from outside the city. And it was expensive, at least in comparison to the Farmers Markets in California where I'm from, where everything is dirt cheap, but that's probably not fair to compare the two.
Here in Colorado they do use a "Colorado Proud" label to label things that are grown or manufactured in the state, so I appreciate that. It's at the grocery stores and even places like Costco.
I'd be interested in what the criteria is to be called "local"? 50 miles? 100 miles?
And there is hope - even in highly urbanized areas like Chicago - that the movement AWAY from local agriculture over the last few decades CAN be reversed.... I was very heartened to hear this report on the success of Chicago's local-labelling program (in place for about a decade now... with positive, measurable results):
"These local branding efforts are “reweaving a community tapestry undone by industrial America,” says Phil Korman, executive director of the Massachusetts-based nonprofit Community Involved in Sustainable Agriculture (CISA), which in 1999 founded the groundbreaking “Local Hero” marketing campaign, with the trademarked “Be A Local Hero, Buy Locally Grown” label. “We are giving back respect to farmers and changing the culture of where we are as people.
Proof is in the (locally made) pudding. In the 2002-2007 USDA Census of Agriculture, farmers in the three-county Local Hero region reported that they doubled the amount of products — everything from wood to flowers to food — sold to local customers, increasing sales from about $4.5 million to almost $9 million. Acreage of land being farmed also increased, the number of farmers markets grew from 10 to 49 between 2002 and 2013, and just in the years 2006 to 2013, the number of CSAs grew from 12 to 55. Local CSAs now sell 10,000 farm shares annually that feed 40,000 people."
"In giving us so much "choice" we have taken away from ourselves a lot of the delight."
I could not agree more. I had this realization when I found I was no longer finding pleasure in having a piece of chocolate every day - it was more a habit than a treat. Living in the western world, a lot of us have access to almost any kind of food we want, when we want it that we just take it for granted, and it starts to lose its "specialness".
The hubby and I shopped a few times at the farmer's market this winter, and I was surprised at how many of my friends/acquaintances were shocked to learn that we have a wintertime farmer's market, with local and seasonal produce and goodies.
In addition to buying local, it's also surprising what you can grow on your own, even in a small space, like a windowsill. I know it's not doable for everyone, but there are so many options: CSA's, grow your own, farmer's markets, co-ops, community gardens, ministry and church gardens. And really, is there anything better than a home-grown, organic tomato? I think not.
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We have a Farmer market year around i use it as i can .
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I would love to eat solely locally and seasonally but I live in Minnesota. We experience winter and the winter of 2012-2013 is barely ending now. If I ate solely locally and seasonally, I'd rarely get any fresh produce.
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When I lived in California buying seasonally and locally was no problem at all. Heck, my mom has already been eating broccoli and snow peas fresh from her garden. Now here in Colorado, it's much more difficult....even though I live smack in the middle of a bunch of farms, outside of Denver. In the summer/fall it works out just fine. But this time of year and winter, not so much. Most of the farm markets don't start here until at least mid May. I looked into CSA's but I am a bit of a picky eater when it comes to the vegetables I like, and I'm cooking for one these days (SO travels weekdays for work) during the week, so I wouldn't even be able to use it all.
But, I do still try to eat what's seasonal, even if it does come from Mexico. At least it's cheaper that way, and even if it's coming in on a truck, the quality of the seasonal produce is much higher in the correct season.
And yes, in more populous areas, many of the farmer's markets are not local produce, because, well, there is no local produce. When I lived in Chicago, they had some wonderful markets, but the sellers were coming from at least a couple hours away. And, they weren't cheap because they have to raise prices to accommodate their traveling expenses.
thanks for the info BUNNYKICKS....Pennington Farms is about 35 miles south of me but it's good to know anyway. We do have a scattering of very small seasonal farms left, but they close mid Oct thru beginning of May. Again ...May offering are usually not local home grown stuff.
I luv the idea of supporting local farmers....I just can't always do it. We used to have several local farmer markets (TICE FARMS) which drew people from miles away...but they gave up to developers.
Well.... that's the problem. Short Growing Season!
Right now is just the WORST time of year... all the late-season produce is pretty much done and gone, but the spring stuff isn't quite up yet!
I actually do try to preserve *some* food, but really all I ever get around to doing is dill pickles and canned crushed tomatoes and salsa (I processed about 50# of tomatoes and 25# of cukes last year). I don't have a big freezer, so, no frozen berries or anything.
I am VERY lucky, in that I live in a nice agricultural area (tons of soft-fruit orchards - surrounded by cherries and peaches! plus apples, raspberries, blueberries, and all the produce you could possibly imagine) - but the first locally-grown anything I'm able to get each year is asparagus - still a few weeks away yet, I figure.
So what I try to do, is really take advantage of the local stuff from June/July to October/November... I eat strawberries to the exclusion of almost every other fruit in the early season, and cherries/peaches in the summer, and apples/pears in the fall... I eat salad greens and snap peas early in the season, and squash and corn as it all winds down.
Then comes December. Yeah, sure, you can still get apples and carrots and onions and butternut squash but....... if I want lettuce? Broccoli? Red pepper? It's all coming up from California, Mexico and Central/South America.
So... for December to June, I declare this my "import season" :D and this is when I'll stuff myself full of bananas, mangoes, oranges, grapes, pomegranate.... and dream of Next Year's Strawberry Crop.
I would try and "put up" more, but... it's a big investment of time, startup-equipment (jars, lids), and storage space. If it made more economic sense to do so, I WOULD do it more (like my grandmother did). But in today's economy, it's cheaper just to buy my nectarines from Ecuador and my sugar peas from China.... (a fact of the "modern age" that irks me... but such is the world we live in).
BUNNYKICKS...I'm curious...since you are in Canada, do you buy local all year round? Or do you buy and freeze? because even frozen veggies lose some of their value after 6 months. And from end of October thru end of April, there isn't much growing ... so what is seasonal if it isn't shipped in?
I do know people who grow their own and can or freeze...but I'm not about to do that
The "downside" is you have to pay up front, and it's a bit daunting to pay for 4 months worth of vegetables in advance...
But you could try Googling for "Community Supported Agriculture" for your particular area.... sometimes these options fly quite a ways under the radar, but are really wonderful opportunities if you can suss them out.
Edited by: BUNNYKICKS at: 4/29/2013 (15:56)
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We have a great farmer's market here. It's called the Piedmont Farmer's Market. It sells all local items. You can find everything there. I love going and just looking around.
Where I live in Southern Maryland, our grocery stores sometimes have local stuff, but most often not.
Even the farmer's markets have their stuff shipped in.
We do have some "pick your own" fruits, but the nearest one is 2 hours away and it costs $5 to go over the bridge to get to it.
Luckily a friend of my husband's brings some veges to us, usually cucumbers, yellow squash, or tomatoes.
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I'm lucky enough to still have some 'pick your own' places around - strawberries, muscadines, blueberries, etc. Just north of me, where my dad lives, peaches and apples are grown. Our pastor grows zucchini & yellow squash in his garden and brings in baskets full to share with the church. NOTHING tastes better than fresh, ripened on the plant, fruits & veggies.
and I don't care what 'technology' does, you cannot duplicate the taste of a homegrown tomato!
I live in NJ....my neighborhood was once all farmland, within the last 30 years, the cost became so prohibitive for farmers, most have sold to developers. Taxes are too high and the life of the farmer is so difficult that the younger generations want an easier life. A few days ago I stopped by the last farmer's market and checked out the prices. They were all too high for my wallet...and most of their items were not from local farms anyway.
Part of me would like to support our local farms...and the truth is, I think during the season store managers buy locally from them. But in the interest of eating fresh fruits and veggies, you either by from the supermarket, or you buy frozen. And they say...frozen is picked and frozen at peak.
Something that really hit home in this was the statement "Buying local also means buying what’s in season in your area and not buying what isn’t. Thanks to modern supermarkets, we’re so accustomed to having what we want when we want it (watermelon in April, asparagus in September and tomatoes in the dead of winter) that eating any other way sounds like deprivation. Yes, getting used to tomato-less winters can be a challenge. You'll soon realize that tomatoes taste better when you’ve waited for them, not only because they’re at their season’s best, but also because you’ve waited."
I remember as a child - strawberries were a treat for June/July. Beyond that... well, if grandma canned or jammed some, you could have canned (yuk) or jammed (yum) berries in the off season. But fresh ones? Ohhhhhhhh the anticipation, and ohhhhhhh the deliciousness.
I remember you used to get "Japanese Mandarin Oranges" ONLY in December. There was only one brand ("Sun") and they came in a wooden crate with the picture of Mt. Fuji on it. THEY WERE THE BEST. Just the smell of one being peeled..... ohhh sweet memories....
We no longer have to wait. Strawberries and easy-peel oranges are staples, now.
And the thought of biting into a sweet berry or peeling back the skin of a fragrant orange - no longer move me....
In giving us so much "choice" we have taken away from ourselves a lot of the delight.
It's pretty difficult after a long Canadian winter, NOT to be tempted by the mexican asparagus and california strawberries.... but maybe... just maybe... i should try and hold off just a liiiiitle bit longer..................
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