Saturday, October 25, 2008

Save It Saturday: Become a locavore

For most of us, we are accustomed to going to the local grocery store and buying whatever we need with little thought as to where the food originally came from. Locavores are people who are committed to only eating foods that are grown in their local community. Often they end up raising their own animals and growing their own food and supplement with products from other area farmers, but this does not have to be the case for everyone.

Why eat locally? Choosing local foods can benefit you and your family specifically by helping you to save money and allowing you to know exactly where your food comes from. It also benefits the environment by reducing the amount of chemicals used on the foods (since they are not travelling as far, they need fewer preservatives and you are able to get fresher, organic food) and reducing the distance the food travels, and therefore reducing the gas and truck emissions.

Now, I know it is not easy gettting everything locally, but it is something to be aware of. When I am buying produce at the grocery store, I try to choose the products that have travelled the least. Personally, I prefer shopping at farm markets though. The farmers are often willing to haggle the price and often are willing to make bartering arrangements or other deals with you. We have a local farm here that allows us to pick up "dropped" apples for $2.50 a bushel. These are not usually apples you will display in a bowl, but are great for canning and making things like applesauce with. You could also make arrangements to pick some fruits/veggies for the farmer and some for yourself at a discount. If you need help finding local farmers, check out Local Harvest and see what you can find. Also, as I have said before, I rent, so my gardening options are limited, but I do have dreams of owning a home in the (hopefully) near future and then I plan to have as large a garden as is feasible. I also plan to have beehives and possibly a few chickens for eggs.

There are also other ways to make buying locally more feasible. Get together with some friends and go in on buying a cow together and then splitting the cuts among yourselves. Look into CSAs (community supported agriculture), which are farms or large gardens that the "share holders" help run, either financially or with manual labor, often both, and then they share the bounty. We have a local one run here that cost about $10 a week and in exchange, you get 5-10 pounds of (as organic as they can feasibly do) fresh fruits and vegetables each week. Each week, you can log onto their website to see what the products will be that week and you can choose whether or not you want them. If you choose not to receive a certain item, you will get extras of the other items. There are others who work with the farm and receive their produce for free. Also, don't be afraid to buy the less pretty produce at farms and farm markets, especially if you are planning to cut it up and use it or can it. Grocery stores do not display the hail-damaged apples that you can get from the farmer for a fraction of the price of prettier apples. Yet these apples taste just as good as their shiny, waxed counterparts and if used in a recipe, no one will ever be able to tell the damaged apples from undamaged apples.

As I said earlier, I know it is not easy for most of us to go completely "local", but in trying, we will better our lives and help the earth and as we know, every little bit counts in both regards. There are a couple of books listed below of people who have followed a local "diet". The books are interesting reads and offer ideas for implementing the local "diet" in your own life.

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