I decided to sign up for the eat local challenge again this year. I did the challenge two years ago and enjoyed trying to eat as much local food as possible while staying within my rather limited budget. I have to admit that local eating is much easier when one has a big garden. You can’t get much more local than the back yard!
I spent the past week scanning my cupboards for non-local items that needed to get used up. I ate the young coconut and the avocados. I also enjoyed plenty of black beans and rice. (I know one local farmer who is growing black beans, but nobody who is growing rice in this climate.) I enjoyed oranges, coconut oil, dried fruit, chocolate, peaches and olives. Many of these non-local foods will remain in my diet, just not in large quantities.
I also picked out items that aren’t local but could be. Soon I will go on a quest for locally grown oats, buckwheat and wheat. I will also seek out local apples, maple syrup, bread, crackers and garlic. I already have local eggs, meat, cheese and garden produce. I made myself some local sauerkraut to replace the store-bought fermented veggies that I have been enjoying.
Not only did I start the eat local challenge today, I also took veggies to a farmer’s market for the first time today. I took a whole van load of corn, cabbage, zucchini, onions, herbs and tomatoes. Mostly I was hoping to share some of this bumper crop of corn. The sweetcorn is doing well this year. The ears are a bit small, mostly because my dad’s planter was set for field corn rather than sweet corn. This means that the corn was planted a bit too close together. The land had a cover crop of buckwheat and weeds last year, which got tilled in to nourish the soil. Even though the ears are small, I find the corn to be very satisfying. I priced my corn accordingly and offered generous dozens (14 or more).
Picking corn is hard work. While I picked in the heat and humidity, the mosquitos had their own eat local feast on my hands and face. They would have snacked on more of me if I hadn’t worn long sleeves and tall boots. Still, I can appreciate the beauty in picking corn. I especially love growing corn without pesticides! As I picked my way through the corn, I felt something on my arm. When I looked down I found a tiny, green tree frog. I talked to the frog and thanked him for helping me with the bugs in the corn. (Yes, I talk to frogs. It wasn’t just that the heat was getting to me. I talk to my plants too.) Cabbages were a little easier to pick because they grow in the open rather than in narrow, scratchy rows of plant. Still, I had to remove several outer leaves due to slug damage. Here, froggy! I can use some help over here.
I am a big believer in presentation. I used flowers, herbs and attractive baskets to make a nice display for my booth at the farmer’s market. I enjoyed being outside at the market. I kept waiting for things to get busy, but the crowds were in short supply today. All in all, I did not sell very much corn or make very much money. I did get to meet several other farmers and eat some lovely local food.
There is a nice culture between the vendors at a farmer’s market. Everybody understands how hard it is to grow and sell food. They also understand the fun and benefits of farm life. For lunch, one of my favorite vendors set up a grill and cooked hamburgers for herself and some of the surrounding vendors. The bakery across from me contributed awesome bread. Someone else brought home-made pickles. That meal, for me, epitomized the farmer’s market and the eat local challenge. After all, it is really about community and our hunger for connection.
Breakfast: hard cooked local duck egg, local cheese from Basics
Lunch: Local hamburger (Thanks, Sashay Acres!), local pickles, local milk, local bread (Thanks, Wildflour Bakery!), local butter and non-local carrots
Snack: Oskri Coconut Bar (Coconut isn’t local but the Oskri company is.)
Supper: I haven’t had supper yet, but we are planning a feast of our own sweet corn (with local butter), pickles, tomatoes and lettuce with regional bison burgers (MN). I know that Janesville also has bison, but I have to eat some burgers that I defrosted a few days ago.
Thoughts for the Day:
Farmers work hard!!!! Sure, a farmer’s market may look like all fun and games. That is because of the graceful farmers who toil day in and day out to grow food for us and then sell it in the hot sun with a smile. I overheard people commenting on the high costs of corn and other foods at the market today. All I could think was how spoiled we have all become. I love the farmer’s market, where we get to pay our money directly to the farmers and meet the people who grow our food. I want to pay them a fair price. If you think the market is just about getting good bargains, please go shop somewhere else.
I still struggle to understand the food economy that we have built in this country. Prices at the supermarket don’t even begin to reflect the work that goes into planting, tending and harvesting food, let alone the cost of shipping the food long distances. Even the biggest corn and soybean farmers rely on government subsidies to maintain their incomes as the prices paid to farmers fluctuate all over the place. For produce, which is labor intensive, most large farms use plenty of immigrant labor (legal and illegal). This is the reality of our food system. If you want farm subsidies to stop and illegal immigration to diminish, you have to choose to support your local farmers and businesses. This may mean that we as consumers take on more of the actual costs of farming.
I will reflect more on the price issue as the month progresses, especially as I try to budget for more local foods in my own diet. For now, I just want to say that a farmer’s market tomato or dozen ears of corn is a bargain at any price. I got to spend some time with many of these farmers today. We chatted while the market was slow (mostly all morning.) They are good people who know what it means to work hard. We are so lucky to have them in our communities. If we lose these businesses because they can’t compete with cheaper, non-local products, we will lose more than just good food.
Photo: This is a picture of my grandpa and his dog at the farm auction that was held a few years ago on the farm where he grew up (Lone Pine Farm). It was a difficult day for everyone as they watched most of the farm’s equipment being sold to the highest bidder. I now grow less than an acre of vegetables at Lone Pine Farm, but at least I can say that I am still farming the land that has been in my family for almost 100 years.