One trend in food that thankfully does not seem to be going away is what is sometimes referred to as “farm-to-table” eating, in which one sources as much of their everyday diet as possible from producers in and around their community. In a sense, calling it a trend is a misnomer; it never really ‘went away”, there has simply been a resurgence in its popularity. As long as there have been gardeners and farmers, there have been locavores. In fact, prior to the industrial revolution, that’s all we were, a great big agricultural, local-eating society. However, some folks out there may be interested in incorporating more fresh locally-grown food into their lives and may not be aware of all that is available to them. So I compiled a few online resources below that may be helpful.
There are plenty of advantages to buying and eating locally (which will also be mentioned below), but there are a few obvious ones that don’t require any research. The first of course is economic; by purchasing locally, you are helping to sustain farmers, livestock breeders, other producers and all of their employees. So it’s always nice to get those warm fuzzy feelings from helping others. Secondly is the environmental aspect. By not having to ship food across the country, companies reduce the amount of fuel required for trucks, electricity required to refrigerate the food and the waste of inevitable spoilage or damage that can occur in shipment. And of course let us not forget the ultimate beneficiary of all this – you! I don’t know about you all, but it makes me feel loads better when I know that what I’m eating isn’t loaded with a slew of potentially harmful chemicals and who knows what else. In this age of GMOs and mega corporations, being able to see and speak to the person who provided you with whatever you’re eating allows you to be a part of the process and know exactly what you’re consuming.
First let me say that a great place to start (if you have the means and the time) is to do a little growing on your own. Even if it is only a couple of little potted herbs in your kitchen, it will not only make you feel better about what’s going into your body, but the accomplishment of growing and sustaining something can be a real confidence booster. But if you aren’t exactly in possession of what the experts call a green thumb, have no fear:
www.localharvest.org – this site gets the award for Ease of Use. Just type in the city and state in which you are interested, and they will give you a list of local farmers, co-ops and farmers’ markets in the area. Very helpful, especially if you are new to an area and have no idea where to get started.
www.sustainabletable.org – this is an incredibly educational site, a great one to visit if you really want to get down to what local eating and sustainable farming is all about. Covers all aspects of the topic, and very well presented.
www.usdalocalfooddirectories.com – you know how the government likes their lists, and this site is no exception. Despite the mile-long name, it is very easy to use and can enlighten readers on the sustainable food community near them. Includes lists of food hubs, CSAs (a kind of sustainable market subscription service) and on-site markets, meaning that the producer sells his goods directly to the public on his own land.
www.localfoods.com – for those of you living in the Midwest, this wholesale distributor offers information on their efforts to buy directly from farmers to increase the availability of fresh food products and create more transparency of the process for the consumer. They also recently opened a retail market of their own in the Chicagoland area.
www.eatyourworld.com – this site is a little less about farmers’ markets and the like, and a little more about regional specialties, which I believe is still important to the locavore lifestyle. Patronizing area restaurants and retailers that use only (or mostly) local products is a great indirect means of support. The site is very well designed, and allows users to supply their own information and experiences about eating locally. This could also be useful if you are relocating or going on vacation to another city.
There are numerous publications available on this topic as well, and I happened across The Locavore’s Handbook by Leda Meredith, which you can find here on Amazon for a pretty reasonable amount. It is directed at those who are seeking to get into the locavore lifestyle, but perhaps don’t have the time (or budget, more specifically) to go headlong into the practice. Although I only perused a few pages, I would definitely encourage everyone who has an interest in farm-to-table eating to give it a read.
I hope these sites are helpful for at least some of you; I know that simply by researching the topic I am definitely more interested in the sustainable lifestyle, and will be haunting my local farmers’ market and co-op – both of which are within blocks of my house…yay! – in the coming weeks.