Photo Credit: Bear Branch Farms
Listeria contamination........undeclared allergens...... lead contamination..... elevated lead levels..... metal fragments in food...... e. coli in cheese. SIX recalls in the last 11 days. Yes that is SIX, one recall every other day. It seems a little unbelievable but a visit to the FDA Recalls of Foods & Dietary Supplements website will show that the list continues on. One would really like to say that food recalls are a new thing and that they seem to be increasing but they are really an old issue. In the 1940's it was common for millers to add corn meal or sand to their flour because it was cheaper and gained them more profit. While these methods and issues are not new problems they have had a profound affect on all of society from the health of the individuals in our country, to healthcare reform, to taxation, political movements as well as affecting the morals of our business men and the character of the people in our country. We can regain some of our freedoms and increase our food security by learning to shop and eat local.
Thank you for joining us on part 4 of our 6 part blog series to Simple and Easy Ways to Make you Grocery Store Free. If you are just joining us please check out the following posts and come back to enjoy this one!
Week 1- Simple and Easy Ways to Make you Grocery Store Free Includes free menu plan and more)
Week 2- 7 Reasons for Eating Seasonably Down on the Farm
Week 3- Learn to Eat in Season and Love it! Includes menu planner, recipe cards and Seasonable Eats Chart
That brings us to Week 4, our post today! We are excited to share with you some information and tips on eating locally. Not only what it can do for you, your health and family, but how it benefits society and lastly HOW to go about eating locally.
"The sooner it is recognized that agriculture and industry form an economic whole with varied implications of moral, social and political character, the better it will be for the material well being of the nation."
Why should we eat locally?
The best way to change society is to change our habits and the best way to change our habits is by being education on the topic and than putting that education into practice. So why would we want to eat locally? What does that really mean?
Eating locally means buying our food, or growing our food, from a local source. That means instead of tumeric coming from an Asian country it is grown here in our country, or our state or city or home. Buying local means that our beef was purchased from a farmer in our city rather than from many different cattle farms in Australia, or multiple other countries. Or perhaps we raise our own beef.
Why do we want to do this? Lets check out 7 of the reasons below:
Local Eating Better for Our Health
Local food does not have to travel as far (from Mexico, China, Georgia ect.) and because it does not have to travel as far it contains more of its nutrients. An example would be a peach picked at our local u-pick peach farm in Oregon. It came right off the tree and is eaten or preserved within days at the peak of freshness. That peach contains a lot more nutrition than say one that traveled across the country from Georgia. Now if you were in Georgia, that would not be the case.
That same peach is FRESH. It not only was picked at peak of nutrition but it went straight into my children's bellies or straight into the freezer. It didn't sit on a truck for a week, or in a store.
When food is local we eat it in season. As we discussed in our previous post, 7 Reasons for Eating Seasonably Down on the Farm, when we eat foods in season we get even more nutritional value, its great for our pocketbook, the foods tend to be what our bodies need for that time of year and so on.
There is a larger variety of food when we purchase locally. Most people tend to eat the same items all year long, using the same set of recipes. Eating locally regulates our food by giving us in season food but it also creates variety in our diet this way.
Local food tastes better. It doesn't have to sit in a gas chamber to ripen like bananas that travel from afar. It waits in the orchard, or on the vine, or on the bush until the farmer knows that its ready to be consumed.
Our healthcare system would benefit from local food because consumers would be so much healthier for eating in this way that healthcare benefits would not be as sought after. Less people looking for medical attention means that medical bills go down and so do premiums.
Better for our Economy
'...every dollar of sales," says Growingproduce.com "....generates twice as much economic activity." A simple Google search of the news will bring up several articles on how money spent in the local economy increases more local economic growth. That means more jobs in our local areas. That means less people on unemployment. More families with food for their children. When we send our money out of our state, out of our country we only hurt our local companies and our local families.
We choose which companies we support and which we want to grow. In the land of capitalism we show support with our dollar. When we spend that dollar at Walmart for a China made product we are supporting Walmart, we are supporting China. If we spend that same dollar at the local farmers market for produce or we buy a handcrafted item we instead support that local and usually small business. We support the family or owner behind that business. We have the power to make decisions and put our money where those decisions are made.
Rather than complain that everything is cheaply made in China, that there are no USA made companies or that certain stores do not have labor practices we like, or moral practices we agree with, we can have an affect on those issues by the way we spend our money. Did you see that Target, because of protests over their bathroom policies, is adjusting their methods? While not ideal it does prove that when we withhold our money from companies that we can change the way things are done. Where we spend our money creates a reaction. We can direct that reaction with our spending.
"What goes on back at the farm has its repercussions in the city, and what happens in the city has its reactions on the farm."
Lastly local business and local foods promotes tourist business. When people are traveling or passing through, as we so often seen at the local farmers market, they are looking to take a bit of local back home with them. Many of us can probably attest to buying that t-shirt while visiting Yellowstone, Yosemite or the Grand Canyon but what about purchasing a locally hand crafted item. Here in the Willamette Valley of Oregon we are famous for our wines. What a local treasure to take back home and that money helps our local community. How about salt water taffy made on the Oregon Coast? Or some Oregon hazelnuts. Not only are these treats for out-of-towners but it boosts our local economy.
Makes us Stewards of Our Land
When our food travels less, be it 100 miles away vs 100,000 miles away or maybe even 10 feet from our home it saves a lot of waste. It saves on labor waste, fuel waste, packaging waste. All of that waste saved helps to preserve the earth that God put us on and made us stewards of. The earth is our tool and the better shape our tool is in the more it will work for us.
Locally grown foods also prevent urban growth. Now this is not said in the pagan spirit of "save Mother Earth", but because the more land that is available to farm the better it is for all of us. There is more food abundance, and a higher quality of life where there is more land to live our days on. As Pope Leo XIII says, "that which is required for the preservation of life and for life's well-being is produced in great abundance by the earth, but not until man has brought it into cultivation and lavished upon it his care and skill. Now, when man thus spends the industry of his mind and strength of his body in procuring the fruits of nature, by that act he makes his own that portion of natures filed which he cultivates..." "The farm is the native habitat of the family," as Bishop Aloisius Muench says and family is what our society is based on. Without the family unit there would be no society.
Eating Locally Creates Food Security
When our food comes from local sources it creates a secure border around us. The instance that comes to mind is my husbands great-grandfather who lived during the depression. He lived on what was known as a typical homestead growing most of their own food and trading their abundance for what they were not able to grow themselves. When the Great Depression hit they were not affected much because they had insulated their food resources. They grew what they needed. Not only did they not have to wait in food lines or go hungry, but they had such an abundance that they were able to feed their starving neighbors. What a great source of security, not just food security but all around security. How few fears they had when they knew that God was providing their food and they didn't have to worry about the store shelves being empty!
I bet they didn't have to worry about food recalls either. Growing your own food allows you to be the food inspector, for you know the story of your food. But we will get more to that in our upcoming blog posts. Even if you don't grow your own food but you are buying local you still cut out so many 'middle men' that you know much more of the story of your food and how and where it was grown. That right there cuts down on the amount of 'food recalls' you have in your home. There is no need to worry about floods, freezes etc. taking out whole entire crops because most of the nations "insert food crop here" was grown in that one location and as the farmer saying goes... the eggs were all in one basket. Local food crops even if the crop is ruined there is usually another local farmer with a similar crop and so not all of that certain type of crop was ruined.
And again, when we spend our money local we control what businesses we are supporting. If there is a business who has bad food practices, such as a restaurant known for being dirty, we don't eat there. That restaurant either fixes its issue or it closes down. That isn't so easily done when we place our dollars in large corporations.
Connecting to Community
My grandparents grew up in a time and small city where everyone knew everybody. In general that was a good thing. One could go next door to the neighbors and ask to borrow something. Today many of us do not know our neighbors. Houses are bought and sold and people move many times during their life times. Jobs are changed even more frequently. As for our food, we don't have much of a relationship with it either. We know it came from this grocer or that but many of us don't know even know the country of origin or when it arrived at the store. When we purchase our food locally we get to know not just the story of our food but also the people behind it. The families we are supporting with our dollar.
In our recent local purchases we have met so many people and learned their story that buying locally has brought us closer to our community. We are able to support those families and know that our dollar went to help that father work from home, that mother to be with her children, for them to be able to give their children a life on the farm. Or helping out a farmer that wants to grow food to better the quality of food for their customer. We all work together when we buy local rather than supporting a big box store with nothing but its profit and loss statement as its story.
Last but Not Least....
.... we get an education! When we meet the farmers that we are buying our food from, we get a local hands on expert to talk to and learn from. When we pick up our raw milk at our dairy share we get to learn all about the cows who are providing that milk for us. When we pick up our locally grown chicken and vegetables we get to hear the story of those items and the methods used to grow them.
We learn what is in season, when it is season, why it isn't in season. We learn how to cook it, if there is an abundance of that item we learn MANY different ways to cook it or how to preserve it. When we eat local, and by doing so with the seasons, we get an education in new flavors and textures. There are SO many things we LEARN by eating whole, local and in season foods that it would take at least one other blog post to contain them.
How to Eat Locally
All those reasons are fine and dandy for why we should eat local but now I hear you saying HOW, how do I find local food? There are several ways to find food that is locally grown and we will go over some of those down below. From the grocery store to your local farmers market and in-between.
Start with the Grocery Store
Many grocery stores, at least here on the West Coast, are starting to carry locally made and/or grown products. Some of the bigger chains such as Safeway, Roths, Winco, Fred Myer are advertising their locally made items with a little sign that says 'locally grown'. If your grocery store is not carrying local foods or not all the ones you are hoping to find make sure to check out some of the health food stores that carry produce. More often than not they will have the largest selection of locally grown foods.
Photo Credit: Salem Saturday Market
Next on our list would be to hit the farmers market in your area. That is the place to be when locally grown foods are what you are looking for. Most of the farmers markets will open early in the spring and while there isn't a huge selection of foods because of what is in season, it is local and it is fresh and the farmers are always glad to have you stop by. The farmers markets will usually go on into the early fall providing a great abundance of fresh local foods for a good portion of the year.
Not only will your find fresh veggies and fruits but there will often be meat vendors as well as bakeries, crafters, handcrafted cheeses, herbal items, gifts and more. Here in Oregon we participate in the Salem Saturday Market but also enjoy shopping the Silverton Farmers Market. Find those and a database of other farmers markets at The National Farmer's Market Directory.
Consumer Supported Agriculture
Photo Credits: Bear Branch Farms
Another great way to buy locally is to purchase a share from a local farmer. There are many farms who have CSA (consumer supported agriculture) programs where customers purchase a part in a farm, much like a stock. In return for their investment up front the farm provides them with a weekly share of the abundance from the farm every week. Essentially you are hiring a farmer to grow your produce for you. While not all of these are organic certified many if not all of them are grown without using sprays and with organic methods. Typically the cost per pound is less than you would pay at any grocery store for organic produce and there is always an exciting adventure waiting in your weekly box.
Another benefit of a CSA is that you get to know where your food comes from, you know who is growing it and most farms will give you a tour and gladly tell you about the progress on the farm. You also get the knowledge and expertise of the farmer. The picture above is of a share from Bear Branch Farm's CSA located in Stayton, Oregon. We have had the pleasure to get to know this family and see how hard they work to provide our local community with wholesome food produced using organic methods. Make sure to check them out and find other similar CSA's at the website Local Harvest and Eat Wild.
Another great local farm we use is similar to a CSA but we actually buy a share in this dairy farm. Wholesome Family Farm is a great local dairy farm who uses the shares they sell to raise healthy cows that produce raw milk. This is a great way for locals such as our selves who do not have the space for our own dairy cow to get a quality raw milk. Not only that but we get to support this great family here so that they can live a farm life style and raise their beautiful children in it as well. Our dollars support this family and we love doing it and knowing where our milk comes from. Did I also mention that the drive to their farm once a week is just beautiful and relaxing? Its a real treat!
Direct from the Farm
While CSA's and Farm Share's are direct from the farm there are yet other farm's who will sell direct to you either by way of an individual product grown on their farm or via a product that they make on their farm. Our little farm would fit under this category when we have an abundance of fresh veggies and/or eggs sell them locally as well as our teas that have ingredients we grow on our little acreage. From our little farm to bigger local farms like Mt. Hope Farms of Molalla, Oregon. This farm is run by a great little family with deep roots in the farming industry. They not only have a meat CSA but they also specialize in unique crops bringing lots of variety to the Willamette Valley and other parts of Oregon. This is another hard working farm family that we have had the pleasure of getting to know. Their dedication is amazing and so much heart is poured into their work. They make the most wonderful and flavorful fruit spreads that we have tried.
Other options for farm direct food might be road side stands anything from very tiny little farm stands to a little larger seasonal stand or even farms that have small farm stores which are open year around. These are all great and wonderful places to find local farm fresh food for you and your family.
Co-ops such as Azure Standard are great companies to work with. They tend to source wholesome ingredients from various farms and companies getting a bulk price on their purchase and passing that on down to their customer. Many times orders are placed just once a month or as often as once a week and then those bulk orders arrive at their destination and are dispersed to the purchasers. This is how we buy grain down on the farm and gives us access to a quality organic grain for our animals and ourselves. With Azure its more like grocery shopping online and having it show up for pick up or sometimes even delivered to your house.
Your own Garden
All of those beautiful options bring us around to what our next two posts will feature and that is growing your own food. Getting food straight from your garden! That means if you are in the city getting food from potted plants, if you are in a small city lot perhaps you are growing them in small square foot gardens. If you are blessed with acreage your garden is probably measured by acres or parts of acres. Whatever your space may be there is always options to grow and get food right from your own space. We hope that you will venture into buying local this week and join us again next week for learning the WHY's of home gardening. Thanks for joining our journey to wholesome seasonal and locally grown food. From our farm to your home we hope to see you again!
My name is CeAnne, wife to my Farmer and mama to 4 adopted kiddos. I help farm lov'n mama's (and grandmas) turn common herbs into powerful medicines without being overwhelmed. Here you will find all sorts of nourishing goodness on natural medicine, herb gardening and wholesome real foods. Read more about our farm HERE.