In my recent blog post, The State of Farm To Table in 2017, I briefly told my story about how I got into my fascination with the farm to table movement. And despite it’s popularity, I know sourcing local, farm fresh ingredients isn’t commonplace for most people. I know this because I can count on just one hand the amount of people I know that are dedicated to eating mostly sustainable, local foods.
To be fair, there are times we have to go to the grocery store for things. Sometimes we can’t make it to the farm market because of travel or life. But here in the Garden State, the farms are making it VERY easy for us to eat local and fresh. In 15 minutes I can be at several markets that have everything I need for a week of cooking. I’m sure if you looked at a map, you could too (and I’m always happy to make recommendations for those who can’t seem to find them).
So what does it take to make the switch to eating sustainably in 2018? Here are some things to consider that I think will make it feel a lot lighter and more achievable.
1. You Don’t Have To Go All In
Yes, I’m giving you permission to put your toe in the water. No need to cannonball in! I imagine only a miniscule amount of the population is able to live 100% sustainably. And just like with any other resolution, you have to be reasonable with yourself. Set some achievable parameters for getting more sustainable foods into your fridge and pantry. Some ideas for realistic goals:
• If you always shop at the grocery store, start by going to the farm market once a month or every other week (baby steps!) and slowly swap out non-sustainable ingredients for items you pick up at the market
• If you eat a lot of chicken, switch to local pastured chicken, stock up and keep the meat in your freezer
• If you don’t cook a lot and tend to eat out at chains or non-sustainable restaurants, try to commit to having sustainable & local food for one meal a day (either something you prepared or at a farm to table restaurant)
2. Make It a Fun Experience!
Who DOESN’T love going to the farmers markets? Even in the dead of winter, the indoor farmers markets are a great way to get out of the house. Bring the whole family out and give yourself plenty of time to peruse. Spend time chatting with the vendors and learning more about who they are and what they do. While you’re there, pick up some special items for lunch and enjoy the freshest meal you can make!
If you like to cook, go to the market without a grocery list, and let the farm’s bounty be your guide. Pick the items that call out to you and then figure out what you’re going to do with them later. Just plug in a few ingredients to Google, Pinterest, or Tastespotting, and you’ll have a whole list of recipes to go with. It’s like you’re on an episode of Chopped! …without the super crazy weird curveballs.
3. Stock Your Pantry Well
Sustainable foods goes beyond produce and meat. In fact, a big part of it is also the grains and dairy. Over the last few years I have seen many of the farms and makers partner with local growers and artisans for local grains to make pasta, or offer flour that’s locally grown and milled at the market. In my home you will find local flour, polenta, rice, pasta, eggs, milk, and cheese. This makes getting farm fresh meals together SO much easier.
3. Make it SUPER EASY
Speaking of easier… this is really the most important one. Sometimes, getting out to the market when life is crazy can feel really hard. If you can’t commit to going to the market every week, make it every other week and then stock up on things you can freeze and preserve. I just recently went to one of my markets that I haven’t been able to get out to in a few weeks, and stocked up on a ton of meat. Now it’s all sitting in my freezer and I feel SO much better about eating this meat than the meat at the grocery store. Sometimes you’ll even find meat from smaller local farms already frozen – that works too!
And if you know that you’re not going to be able to pick up farm fresh veggies for a week or two, then familiarize yourself with the vegetables that last longer and stock up on those. Since you’re buying directly from the farm, your vegetables should last a few days longer than they would from the grocery store. You may be surprised by how long certain vegetables can last when stored properly: cauliflower (up to 20 days), broccoli (up to 14 days), peppers (up to 3 weeks), carrots (up to a month), squash (several months)… So you can stock up and plan your produce use out accordingly, so that you always have fresh local produce to enjoy at home!
More favorite ways to keep fresh local fruits and veggies around: preserve them, pickle them, freeze them. Some farms even preserve and can their vegetables for you – I love a good farm fresh chutney!
If going to a local farm market is completely out of the question (either you live too far from a good one or the hours don’t match up with your schedule) then check out the online delivery options. WildKale.com is the first online farmers market where food ships directly from the local farm for overnight delivery to your home. Farm To People also has a new fresh delivery option where they send you a bunch of different farm fresh items for you to create delicious meals with.
Last but not least, you’re still better off shopping at the farmers market in the winter. Just because the local farms aren’t growing as many things, doesn’t mean they don’t have great produce to offer. Many of them bring in produce from local farms and even have things growing beautifully in their high tunnels.
So I hope I have made this journey a little less intimidating – sustainability is always something to be striving towards. Every effort makes an impact in our environment, local economy and YOUR health!