Saturday, April 10, 2010

Think Global, Act Local

...and the best way to act local is to EAT local!

My garden is growing beautifully! Even the spinach and cilantro seem to be growing without a problem and I recently added zucchini, cucumbers and melons seeds to the garden as well. Before you know it, we will have tons of fresh vegetables, herbs and some fruits.

But while I don't like admitting it, you can't grow everything you want to eat. Most of us also don't have our own cows, pigs and chickens (although my neighbors and I recently agreed to trade veggies for eggs, since they have 3 chickens). My neighbors aside, most of us don't own our own chickens and will need to buy food from someone else. Many people turn to big chain grocery stores and restaurants for their meals, but there are better options out there that provide fresh food while supporting local businesses and farmers and reducing your carbon footprint.

Sure going to Target, Harris Teeter, Kroger and even Trader Joe's and Whole Foods is great because everything is available in mass quantities, but do you know where your money is going? Or where that food came from? Have you thought about how far your eggs, beef, milk and apples have travelled before they get to your local grocery store? Or how much packaging your products are wrapped in?

I'm not suggesting you do the 100-mile challenge and only eat things grown or produced locally, but I do suggest you start thinking about where your food comes from, who grows/produces it and who you are supporting with your purchases.

One of the best ways to support your local community is through Community Supported Agriculture (CSA). When you join a CSA, you choose a farm, pay a set amount which goes directly to the farm and then you get to enjoy weeks of fresh food. Our CSA is starting this month and I can't wait! We paid $156 for 12 weeks of delicious food including eggs, flour, beef, tomatoes, beans, peppers, bok choy and much more.

If you're not ready to make a commitment to a CSA, but still want local products or if you want a nice place to go on a Saturday morning, let me recommend the Farmer's Market. Fresh vegetables and eggs, grass-fed beef, locally made cheese, friends, neighbors and often locally baked goods. It's really a great place to be. My favorite is to wake up on Saturday, ride our bikes over to the market, shop around, then ride back home, maybe stopping for lunch at a local restaurant.

Another choice I recommend over big chain grocery stores is joining a local co-op. It's a grocery store, but it's local, which means they focus on using local resources; it's community-owned, which means the profits stay within the community and it's inclusive, providing food, jobs and opportunities for the local community. Last November, I joined Weaver Street Market, a local co-op and I love it! I had to pay a membership fee, but I've already earned that back using the coupon book I got when I joined and taking advantage of the weekly owner specials. Organic and locally grown foods, fresh baked breads, owner specials and discounts, it doesn't get any better than that!

So before you drive to a big chain grocery store, try out the alternatives, because the next best thing to growing your own food is knowing exactly where your food came from.