Much can be said about the environmental and economic benefits of eating locally sourced foods. More can be said about the adage that a local food advocate from my town often uses: Eat food you know from people you know.
Every summer my family makes more than a handful of pilgrimages to local farms. These trips are more than just a way to escape the city and another day at the park. They are a way for us to share with the people who produce our food. And more importantly, a way for us to show our girls that meat does not come on a styrofoam tray and vegetables grow in the dirt.
Oh yeah, and farms are fun. All kids love dirt and animals.
Photo by Cheryl
Both my Hubby and I spent time on farms growing up, despite our suburban upbringing. We had the benefit of family and friends with farms and were able to spend weeks at a time milking cows, driving combines, and watering vast gardens. The family farms we grew up with are far away now, but the farmers we see on a weekly basis are the next best thing.
The connection between source and food is integral to encouraging good eating habits. Without fail my girls have happily eaten a food that they saw earlier that day being picked, or got to pick themselves.
Photo by Cheryl
There are a few ways to enjoy the farm experience.
If you frequent a farmers’ market, pay attention to any posters in the vendors’ stalls or simply ask if they have an open house coming up. Many farmers will have customer appreciation days where they invite people to visit the farm. Take advantage of these to see exactly the source of your favorite carrots or beef.
Whether you are hoping for berries, vegetables, or flowers it’s easy to find a U-Pick operation. Simply drive up to the farm, gather any buckets or supplies, and get down in the dirt. Bring your sunscreen, bug spray, and cash. We often bring a picnic with us and make it a day trip. Find them through your farm or farmer’s market associations. Just remember, one for you, two for the bucket!
Check your calendars for local food festivals. Not the wine and restaurant kind. The ones that celebrate a local food or region. Around here the big one for us is Asparagus Festival at the end of May. Check the listings through your regional agricultural agencies.
Community Supported Agriculture (CSA)
With the purchase of a membership or share in a local farm you are investing in the farm and guaranteeing a certain amount of your food for the year. It can be a risky venture if the farm doesn’t do well, but its worth the risk. Beyond the commitment to very local food production, you are establishing a relationship with someone that gives you food. They become like a family member who helps out their poor city cousin. Many CSA’s also have requirements of their members to actually help out of the farm throughout the season, another great way to get your hands dirty.
Photo by Cheryl
No matter the city you live in you are likely no more than a few hours drive away from a farm. If you are lucky, you are even closer. No car? Look around, urban agriculture is growing across North America and already prevalent in the rest of the world. Without going far you and your kids can get dirty, see carrots coming from the ground, or gather eggs.
Even if this isn’t a possibility, take heart. Plant a tomato in a container on your front steps or grow herbs on a window sill. Research community gardens if you don’t have your own backyard plot. Or make friends with a neighbor with a bumper crop of raspberries. With a little digging you can find your own farmer.
This summer, take the time to get a little dirty and source your food outside the market. Get to know the people who make your food. See where your food comes from. And eat it right from the ground, dirt and all.
Photo by Cheryl
Asparagus and Tomato Pizza
Use your favorite pizza dough (or my version) to create a summery pizza. Vary the toppings according to what’s in season and what you find that day on your farm visit.
- 1 clove garlic, finely chopped
- 1-2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1/2 bunch asparagus
- 1/2 pint cherry tomatoes, halved
- 1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese
- 1 tsp dried oregano
- Pizza Dough
1. Preheat your oven to 450 degrees F. Pull out your dough into rough 8-10 inch circles. Place onto a thick cookie sheet or pizza stone sprinkled with cornmeal.
2. Trim any rough bits from your asparagus (if it is farm fresh you shouldn’t have to do a thing). Cook in boiling water for 1 minute then immediately submerge in ice water to stop the cooking.
3. Drizzle your stretched pizza dough with the garlic and olive oil. Arrange the asparagus and halved tomatoes over the pizza. Sprinkle the feta and oregano on top. Add an extra drizzle of olive oil on top.
4. Bake for 10-15 minutes until pizza is cooked all the way through and cheese is bubbling slightly.
Happy Earth Day! Do you currently purchase any farm-fresh produce? Are you looking to make a connection between field and fork?