To local or not to local?
It is a very complex question with many layers. Below we begin to scratch the surface. The first thing to keep in mind is that the “Local food Movement” is nothing new. The phenomenon of shipping food vast distances via planes, trains, and automobiles did not reach mass levels until a quarter of the way into the 20th century for most people.
1. Cost. Generally when we buy local in New England we are buying from smaller farms. Many folks are quick to point out that smaller farms tend to be a bit more expensive. Not so fast Skippy. a closer look will reveal a couple of things: Most farmers markets sell by weight, allowing you to purchase in quantities that you will actually use. Take a minute to think how much food ($) that you throw out because it has gone bad in the refer. Another very valid point is that all of the money spent with that local grower will get cycled into the pockets of folks in and in the vicinity of your community.
2. Seasonality. If you want to eat just about any vegetable this time of year in New England there is just about a 100% chance that it came from several hundred miles away. In my book that is OK as long as you understand it- A tomato that is picked green and then takes a 3,000 mile truck ride across the country will not have near the flavor of its local counterpart during harvest season.
For you nut bags who say if it aint local I don’t eat it (I say good for you) there is a bit of a movement of folks growing things in greenhouses and taking advantage of things like hydroponic and aquaponic technology. My good friend Jeff over at Aquidneck Honey is growing Ghost Peppers to make his-out of this world “hot honey”.
My saving grace this time of year is butternut squash. It is harvested in the fall, but if stored in the proper cool dry conditions it will last for several months.
If you want to get really creative buy your self some canning materials, a food dehydrator, and a vacuum sealer. All of these will have you tasting summer goodness minus the beach all winter long. This past summer happened to be a banner year for egg plant at ROMA Neighborhood Farm. We sliced it, breaded it, fried it, and froze it. Eggplant Parm has been a once a week staple for the last few months, and I am loving every bite.
3. Relationships. To me there is nothing better than having personal relationships with the people that grow and raise my food. Understanding the complete cycle from seed, to plant, to harvest, to plate is something that I really cherish. Next time you are at the market engage the farmer . Most of them would like nothing better than to tell you about their farm and their products.
As for me, I am about half and half. In season we have some of the best produce in the world. I eat as much as one person can, and I preserve as much as I can for the winter. I love the grass fed beef from my friends at Aquidneck Farms- I must admit that my restaurant customers overwhelmingly prefer the mainstream grain fed variety…You know, the juicy burgers that are Americas favorite food. That is fine with me, a restaurant that tries to tell their customers what and how to eat today is commercial property for rent tomorrow. Local cheese, eggs, and milk from Simmons Farm is also something that I cannot get enough of. Do me a favor and don’t tell anybody, but I dipped about ten Double Stuffed Oreos in that milk this afternoon…. Hey nobody is perfect, and that s**t was so good!!!!!
For more information about local agriculture click on the links in the copy and check out check out:
The RI Farm Bureau