Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Local Food

I've been talking a lot about food here recently and especially after I read Barbara Kingsolver's new book Animal, Vegetable, Miracle. I am stealing a page from their website so I can spread the word even further. It is so important for us to refocus on what we are eating and where we are getting our food that I wanted to insure everyone had the resources they need.

Whether you’re a rural or urban consumer, it’s easy to find local or regionally grown food. Below are listed some of the best web resources for locating your nearest options for local food. As the demand for local foods grows, the options will increase, so don’t be afraid to ask for local food wherever you shop. Let the manager of your local supermarket know that you would like to see local food available and that you want to know the origin of the foods you buy.

General Sites

LocalHarvest is a great starting point for connecting with local growers and finding sources for locally and sustainably produced foods. This site allows the user to search for farmers markets, CSAs, direct farm sales, restaurants, grocery stores, and other local food sources. In addition it provides forums for various farming topics. Worth a visit!

The New Farm Farm Locator provides a search resource for locating fresh local food sources, and provides the reverse: finding markets for farmers and producers

Farmers’ Markets

Probably the best option for most people is to locate an active Farmers’ Market, where farmers and growers sell their produce and value-added goods directly to consumers. Since passage of the Farmer-to-Consumer Direct Marketing Act of 1976, active farmers’ markets have grown from about 350 to well over 4000 today, or an average of 80 per state. Most urban areas host farmers’ markets from spring until fall; some are open all year. Market rules usually guarantee that the products are fresh and local. You can find your nearest farmers’ markets and local producers on the USDA farmers' market website.

Community Supported Agriculture (CSA)

In a typical CSA, subscribers pay a producer in early spring and then receive a weekly share of the produce all season long. Many community-supported agriculture (CSA) operations allow or sometimes even require subscribers to participate on their farms; they might even offer a work-for-food arrangement.

The Biodynamic Farming and Gardening Association provides CSA information and state-specific search options.

The Robyn Van En Center at Wilson College also hosts an information and CSA finder.

If you don’t have any land, in most urban areas you can find some opportunity to garden. Most urban areas also host community gardens, using various organizational protocols – a widespread practice in European cities that has taken root here. Some rent garden spaces to the first comers; others provide free space for neighborhood residents. Some are organized and run by volunteers for some specific goal, such as supplying food to a local school, while others accommodate special needs of disabled participants or at-risk youth. Information and locations can be found at the American Community Garden Association site.

The ACGA also provides links for finding community gardens.

City Farmer is a related organization for information on urban gardening in Canada.

Home Grown

Container gardening on porches, balconies, back steps, or even a sunny window can yield a surprising amount of sprouts, herbs, and even produce. Just a few tomato plants in big flowerpots can be surprisingly productive. If you have any yard at all, part of it can become a garden. You can spade up the sunniest part of it for seasonal vegetables, or go for the more understated option of using perennial edibles in your landscaping. Fruit, nut, citrus, or berry plants come in many attractive forms, with appropriate choices for every region of the country. While gardening as a topic is too broad to cover adequately in just a few links, a good starting point is at The National Gardening Association

UK Resources

In England and the UK, the movement toward more local eating is more commonly called Seasonal Eating. Here are some web sites to guide choices in the UK.

Eat The Seasons UK is a web site that offers information on what's currently in season in the UK, and provides resources for where to find products.

There are more than 500 Farmers' Markets in the UK and the National Association of Farmers' Markets provides information for locating Farmers' Markets around the Country and those found in London.

Updated: Fixed the broken link to the USDA farmer's market site.

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