Since I will not have the ability to do a serious vegetable garden or have chickens and/or goats and cows at my suburban New Jersey home . . . YET . . . I am very committed to finding locally produced food. For so many reasons I’m a local foodie. Here are a couple of them:
– the lower carbon impact of supporting food that isn’t ‘big Ag’ produced and shipped across the country
– I personally enjoy meeting the farmers (whenever possible) and supporting their efforts
– the food is so much fresher and tastes better to me
– I simply get great satisfaction in knowing that I’m helping to move towards a more sustainable agriculture system by eating/buying locally
The following list of various ways to find and buy local food is an excerpt from a story we did last May/June in Relevant Times, by Tamara Jean Scully, who is a freelance writer, specializing in agricultural issues. She is a local foods advocate, working with the Foodshed Alliance to support local, sustainable family farming. Tammy is also a part-time farmer, growing perennials, raspberries and minor fruits. tamarajeanscully.com
A few different ways to find locally grown food . . .
Different markets will have varying rules on the goods producers can sell. Many markets are emphasizing strictly locally-grown foods. Beware of markets which do not enforce a locally-grown, or vendor-grown, standard. Ask the market manager for this information.
Health and Natural Food Stores
Many of these types of stores have become advocates for local farmers, often attempting to offer some fresh produce in-season. Some may offer canned foods or baked goods made by local farms, or sell handcrafted home and beauty products made locally.
Traditional supermarket chains are becoming more responsive to customer requests for local
produce, with varying degrees of success. Mostly, popular items which are grown in volume by some larger local farmers, are finding their way to the produce aisle.
GD Meg NOTE: Ask the managers of your local supermarkets to find out which ones are using locally grown produce – if they aren’t, encourage them to do it!
such as Whole Foods Markets, have made efforts to source locally whenever possible. Whole Foods holds in-store events where local area farmers distributed samples and interacted directly with consumers. They have also sponsored events run by local foods organizations. Meanwhile, talk to the produce managers to see whether any produce is locally-grown.
GD Meg NOTE: Whole Foods is great, but don’t assume that everything is organic OR locally produced!
Food Buying Cooperatives
There are food cooperatives which are focused on sourcing organic products. Most of these are
not strictly purchasing locally-grown foods. Cooperatives order in bulk, capitalizing on the buying
power of many members, and deliver products on a regular schedule, usually to a central delivery location. Members purchase a share, entitling them to a portion of the week’s offerings. Usually, members have some flexibility in quantity and type of products they order. There are also some cooperative buying stores, where members go to shop, just like at a regular store. Co-Op America, is a great resource for finding local buying clubs and coops.
GD Meg NOTE: Some Food Coops, like my own ‘veggieheads’ DO look for local farmers and producers to purchase from.
Community Supported Agriculture
In a CSA, a farmer offers shares for sale, usually with weekly pick-ups. The consumer pre-pays for the season’s share, and in return receives a given amount of produce, eggs, soaps or other items offered by the farmer. Because CSAs allow the farmer a pre-determined customer base, the farmer can plan on planting a given amount of crop, knowing that he has already pre-sold it. This reduces the risk of growing food without an assured market. The farmer is able to know that he is growing for a receptive, appreciative customer-base.
Pick Your Own
These farms welcome you right out into the fields to pick everything from apples to berries, pumpkins and even vegetables.
Many area farmers have on-farm stands, either seasonal or year-round, where they sell their product. Ask about growing practices (organic, natural, biodynamic or conventional). Inquire about which crops are grown on the farm, or come from other local farmers. Many farmers are now labeling their produce to help assist customers with this process.
Find CSAs & Farmer’s Markets in Your Area
localharvest.org and newfarm.org both have farm locator services to help find farms, farmers markets, cooperatives and other sources of local food across the US.