There are nearly 2 million farms in the United States, 80% of which are considered “small farms” and the majority of which are family owned. Each of these farms grows a delicious and valuable resource that we all need: food…ultra-fresh, tasty food.
The local food movement has taken the country by storm. It used to be that only “hippies” or the “granola-types” would shop the farmer’s markets and insist on homegrown, local foods.
But not any longer. It seems everywhere I go, local is in.
The local food movement has a lot of benefits. From reduced greenhouse emissions thanks to shorter travel distances and supporting the local economy at-large, local food allows you to eat fresher food that is most often not treated with pesticides. The products have longer to ripen, so they taste extra good, you’ll be eating what’s in season, and you’ll often find a wider variety of foods when you shop local because farmers have the freedom to try smaller crops without fear of them spoiling in transit.
“But I eat organic. Do I really need to eat local too?”
While eating organic is wonderful, there are often many times that the organic food you consume travels a long distance to get to your plate. The environmental impact often actually outweighs the benefits of the organic food.Â
So, where do you start? It’s actually pretty easy if you know where to look.
The USDA has a website that is a wonderful resource, listing all of the farmers markets across the country. Just enter a zip code and the distance you’re willing to travel and wa-laa! You have a list.
PickYourOwn.org is a website that provides a listing of local farms across the country where you are invited to come and pick your own food. Not only is this a satisfying experience, it is a wonderful excursion for the family and particularly helpful if you preserve or freeze your own food. When you pick your own, the price is less expensive because you’re cutting out all sorts of middle-(wo)men. These farms often offer eggs, beef, and chicken for sale as well.
The website also includes a listing of festivals related to in-season fruit, which is kind of fun. I mean, who wouldn’t love a (pick-your-favorite-fruit) festival where you can eat copious amounts of goodies made with said fruit?
Head to your backyard and create your own garden! Another terrific activity for the kids, gardening can be relaxing and very rewarding. And limited space is not a problem – container gardening is huge right now! Check out this guide to gardening for beginners for help in getting started.
Community supported agriculture (or CSA) is a fantastic option for families that want local food but don’t have the time to grow their own or head to the farmer’s market every week. Essentially, you purchase “shares” of a CSA-participating farm; each week throughout the growing season, you’ll get a box of fresh produce. How easy is that?
Overall, local food is the way to go as far as I’m concerned. I am the first to admit that it’s been a recent experiment for me, but I was smitten after the very first meal we had that was completely local – from the eggs and bacon to the potatoes and milk. Delish!