As spring starts to peek around the corner, it’s finally safe to start thinking about fresh, local produce. There are so many ways to get your fill of fresh vegetables, and if you can focus on getting them locally, you’re not only supporting your own community, but you’re helping the planet by reducing emissions required to transport produce long distance. You’re also maximizing your own health benefits by eating freshly picked produce and avoiding pesticides and genetically modified food (hopefully!). Focusing on buying fresh and local makes you a locavore! Here are some tips to think about:
Look for Events in Your Area
Pittsburgh is hosting a Farm to Table conference/trade show March 23rd and 24th 2012. I’ll actually be exhibiting for Farm Sanctuary this year! These events usually have a variety of vendors displaying homegrown foods as well as restaurants with food and wine tastings, cooking demonstrations, presentations on related topics, and it’s a great way to research everything in your area in a single afternoon.
Check the Farmer’s Market schedule in your community.
Farmer’s markets are great places to meet a lot of local farmers all in one place. You can pick out a different supply each visit, and you can get all sorts of homemade products – everything from fruit, vegetables, herbs, fresh baked goods, jams and jellies, pies, and even cut flowers. Visit Local Harvest to see what’s near your zipcode. We’ve got 27 listings in the Pittsburgh area!
Join a CSA.
CSA stands for community supported agriculture and this is a concept that’s growing in popularity nationally. This is perhaps the ideal way to make sure you get your fill of veggies every season. I use the phrase “join” because you actually sign up for a subscription to receive a regular supply of fresh produce. The options usually include weekly or bi-weekly produce, various sizes depending on your household, and the option whether to pick it up at the farm or have it delivered to your house. The farm simply assembles a box of produce including whatever is in season. This means that you get food in your CSA box that you may have never even tried before. The first year we participated was the first time we were ever introduced to kale, collard greens, swiss chard, etc. There were items I’d never heard of, and rather than let anything go to waste, we simply learned how to use it! CSA deliveries often include other products like potted herbs, jams and jellies, etc.
Shop at a Co-Op
Many communities have a co-op food store that sells local, natural, and often organic food at a reasonable price. Generally the store keeps costs low by staying small, providing local brands, encouraging members to volunteer, and keeping advertising and extras to a minimum. Many items are sold in bulk, reusable bags are suggested or often required. Anyone can shop there, but membership is also available – either a monthly or one-time fee gets you a regular discount. Memberships are actually shares of the store, so members actually own a portion of the business. This is a neat way to support a local small business instead of a big box store. But, you have the convenience of fresh produce and packaged products all in one place.
Develop Your Green Thumb
Of course you always have the option of a traditional garden, a raised bed, a patio garden, or kitchen sill. Grow anything from onions, peppers, asparagus, tomatoes, squash, and strawberries to just a few herbs you can pick the same day you’ll use them. There are loads of resources and different ways to put together a garden that fits your space, needs, and maintenance preferences. Better Homes and Gardens actually has one of the most comprehensive sites I’ve found.