How YOU Can Strengthen Our Local Food System

 

Supporting local producers is more than being trendy and being able to use #local on your social media posts… It means that you are helping to support families that worked hard to bring you that product and also the local economy. It’s a win-win really. You (consumer) benefits from the locally made product or freshly harvested food, and the producer benefits from the sale. Yay!

Local food economies need to be strengthened and accessed more often.

We consumers have been spoiled with readily available and diverse foods from the aisles of our grocery stores and often stray away from planning or consuming a diet consisting of seasonal food sources that come from our local area. Consuming a seasonal and local diet by way of, let’s say, shopping at a farmer’s market or by growing your own food at home is beneficial to not only you but the food system surrounding you. By doing these things, you are becoming less dependent on the market madness that goes on behind the scenes that brings you your food.

Our food system works very very hard to ensure that we consumers are buying safe and satisfying products, but is driven by consumer wants and does not prioritize sustainability.  For example, if we demand vast amounts of spinach, our food system will have it imported from overseas where it is grown heavily because the demand cannot be made by only U.S. grown spinach. The amount of time, effort, and energy put into growing, harvesting, packaging and transporting our precious spinach is devastating on our envrionment and causes much damage. By growing your own or purchasing a local product in place of imported spinach (kale, mustard, turnip..NC grows spinach too!) you get a fresher, more nutrient dense product that has a much smaller impact on the environment.

All of that being said, I have listed a few simple ways YOU can get involved in and strengthen our local food system and reap all the benefits that locally grown and produced products have to offer!

#1 Shop/ Buy Locally

Make it a point to purchase products from your local farmer’s market, farm stand, pick your owns (berries), artisans, produce stands, nurseries, etc. When you purchase from local producers, your money spent will most likely stay in the local economy. Thriving economy=happy people.

IMG_2291.JPG(Pope’s Strawberries- Knightdale, NC. Notice the volunteer corn sprouting up in the strawberry beds…ha! love it!)

#2 Volunteer Your Time/ Talents

Volunteer at your local farmer’s market! Every farmer’s market has a “market manager” that is key to the market’s success and trust me… they are overworked and could use your help. Even if it’s setting up tents or hanging up market advertisements throughout town you will be helping to strengthen your local food system and giving farmers and artisans more business. Enjoy taking pictures? Take pictures of the market/farm stand/ pick your own and post them to the establishment’s social media AND yours! Boom. Free marketing!

ww(These ladies set up under the Education booth and gave market customers samples and recipes of seasonal and local dishes. Yay, go college kids!)

#3 Grow Your Own

Take control of what you eat and start growing it. Start small, maybe growing a few herbs you use in your kitchen often, and continue to expand. Enjoy the struggles and rewards from your crop and realize the effort and energy needed to produce food. Buy your seeds or seedlings from your local, family-owned hardware store or business. Keep all profits local! DSCN0980

#5 Get Cooking!

Take those newly purchased, fresh fruits and veggies from the farmer’s market and make them into a meal or snack! Cooking is intimidating, and we consumers are loosing the drive and ability to put togeher raw ingredients to make a nutritious meal. Get in control of your health by preparing food for youself- slice up that zucchini or squash you bought and bring it to work alongside some hummus, ranch, dip, etc. Easy peasy!

DSC_0052.JPG

#6 Start the Conversation

When dining or grocery shopping, look out for and even request items that are produced locally. Encourage others to shop locally by sharing the word through social media or by word of mouth. Research for yourself how food is raised, caught or made and how it ends up on your plate. Wherever you are, there are advocacy groups, associations, etc. supporting the local food movement and strengthening our local food system- check em’ out!

 

 

 

 

So,

After having backspace-d this first post at least six times and put off writing for a good three months; I’m finally publishing something. My hopes in writing this blog are that I am held accountable, I try new things, I express my love for food, I become more passionate, I finish my ideas, I remember what’s important to me, I hear criticism, I form opinions and I grow as a person. I really do hope I stick to this blog long enough for you all to see all of those things happen. So at that, let’s begin!

The phrase “Farm to Table” or “Farm to Fork” is thrown around today when talking, mostly about restaurants, but also of homes that have a direct relationship with the locally grown food they are serving. When I hear “Farm to Table” or “Farm to Fork” I do tend to think of the snazzy restaurants downtown that are catering to the always-hip locavore who cares about where his or her food came from for purposes of quality and/or peace of mind. The journey of how a single piece of food reaches our forks or mouths is too complex to sum up in a single sentence. The journey of how a whole meal reaches our “forks” is even more complex than that. Imagine your favorite processed food from your choice of a local fast food joint. That item has, let’s say, ten ingredients in it (of course counting preservatives, additives, colors, dyes and you name it). Each item was grown and raised by different sources, different farmers, and each item requires a tremendous amount of energy, time, and work to be produced with not only the help of farmers but with the help of numerous manufacturing plants. The amount of energy put in to each single ingredient of your lovely item is so great that your item now will cost you an arm and a leg to purchase. But it doesn’t. Your item costs a relatively low price and you are temporarily satisfied. But why is that? Why is it that a single item that took so much energy to produce is cheaper than buying an item that required no altering whatsoever (raw fruits and veggies)? Now I don’t know all the details about who and how an item such as yours is made, and I haven’t made it a goal of mine to track down every hand that directly or indirectly contributes to your item, but I can say with certainty that it is more than thirty. At the least.

Next time you order your item(s), I hope you reflect on how many persons had a stake in your meal.

To Fork will explore all the different ways our food that sustains us ends up on our plates or “forks”  and what happens when that food gets there. I’ve been on a culinary kick lately (that hopefully won’t just be a kick) that I will share with you. I want to examine and work through the controversies of food and our food system. I want to explore the hands that are the root of our sustenance, our farmers, and also try to share my own attempts at growing edibles. I also can not guarantee that there won’t be a personal post every once in a while. 🙂

And at that, I thank you for reading and I hope you see me back here sometime soon!