The following post is from Emily of Live Renewed:
Living in Northern Indiana, and just beginning to come out of a cold and wet spring, I am more than ready for the bounty of fresh produce that will soon be overflowing the stands at our Farmer’s Market. But, it’s not quite our time… yet.
And while it’s so tempting to dive into all of the produce that is newly available at the grocery store after a long winter, part of my family’s food journey over the past year or so has been becoming aware of where our food actually comes from.
Read the Labels
Do you read your produce labels? Do you know where your fruits and veggies were grown?
Just as I am committed to reading ingredient labels on the food we buy, I also make sure to check the labels on the produce that I’m considering buying too. Most food travels an average of 1,400 miles before arriving at our grocery stores. All of that food travel has a huge environmental impact, and by choosing to pass up food that has traveled long distances, we can help to lessen that impact.
When I look at a produce label, if it’s from a different hemisphere, I definitely pass it up. If it’s from Mexico or Central America, I most often pass it up. If it is from the US, I try to consider what type of produce it is, and how it was probably transported, refrigerated and/or by air-freight has a larger environmental impact. For example, strawberries are more delicate than say, apples.
It is hard this time of year when everything seems to be coming into season at the grocery store at the same time, and I’ll be honest that we have enjoyed some fresh fruit in our home recently that was not in season locally.
I try to find a balance between eating some fresh fruits and veggies while making sure that we are conscious about where that produce is grown and if we’re going to buy produce that’s not in season locally yet, at least choosing products grown in the USA, and not halfway across the world.
Choosing Locally Grown Foods
As we are coming up on the season of abundant locally grown food all around the country, this is the time to really start thinking about buying and eating locally grown food and what you can do to eat local food as much as possible throughout the year.
First, you have to know what is in season in your area.
Learning what’s in season is an important step in determining if food is locally grown or not. Although there are already strawberries, tomatoes, and sweet corn at our Farmer’s Market (we have a lot of “farmers” who really just buy other people’s produce to resell at the market), I know that there is no way they were grown locally.
The National Research Defense Council has this great map that shows, by state, what is in season each month. Where I live in Indiana, we are so close to Michigan that lots of our produce comes from there. I did pick up fresh asparagus at the Farmer’s Market this week, and cannot wait for strawberries to come into season around the end of this month.
Then, you have to find a good source for local food.
For most of us, that means Farmer’s Markets, U-pick farms, and even buying directly from the farm. Get to know your farmers at the market by being sure to ask them questions and find farmers that grow their own food, locally, and hopefully with organic practices, even if they aren’t labeled certified organic.
Joining a CSA is another great way to support local farmers and get locally grown food, often delivered right to your door! And of course, there’s always growing your own food in your home garden, which will really help you to learn about when produce is in season, and is as local as it gets!
Finally, in order to eat local food year round, you will need to preserve extra produce when it’s abundant and in season.
This is the step that I am planning to focus on this year. I have done a little bit of preserving in the past – freezing some fruit that we’ve picked locally, making freezer jam, and canning applesauce with a friend last fall, but that’s about it.
I would love to take my local food storing and preserving to the next level this season, buying or picking local produce in bulk and then putting it up to last us throughout the rest of the year.
I’m definitely not a expert on preserving produce and other local foods, so here’s a few great resources to help you get started:
- Katie at Kitchen Stewardship is running a whole series on preparedness and real food storage this month.
- Stephanie at Keeper of the Home has a great post on full of resources for preserving your garden and Farmer’s Market bounty.
- And Aimee from Simple Bites shares ways to plan for preserving and canning this summer and avoiding burnout.
We can all help to reduce the environmental impact of our food by choosing to read produce labels, passing up produce that has been shipped around the world, and buying and preserving locally grown food to enjoy throughout the year.
Do you usually read produce labels? How do you buy and preserve in season, local foods so that you can eat locally throughout the year?