Sunday, June 12, 2011

A New Year's Resolution, Jan. 2011

Happy New Year! I wish you and your family a healthy 2011. Now is the time to make a few New Year's resolutions. We are all familiar with the most common such as losing weight, exercising more and managing money better. Yet I would like to see this one on your list: Commit to eating more locally grown food in 2011.

Below is a plan of action for following through on this resolution. I think you will be surprised at how simple and enjoyable it will be. I imagine the average reader does not have their own garden and are busy people. Maybe you already garden and store your own food – that is great! If not though, the suggestions below will be easy – by the end of the year local food will be a natural part of your lifestyle.

The first step? Take out your 2011 calendar right now. Second step? Write a reminder note in each month to try to do the following:

January – Read Omnivore's Dilemma by Michael Pollan. Start buying and using local eggs.This is an extremely easy step and I guarantee you will notice how tasty they are. You can visit a food cooperative or a health food store to find them. Try asking your local grocery store if they can carry eggs from a local supplier. Check the local food guide here – maybe your neighbor down the road is selling eggs and you didn't realize it.

February -Write yourself a reminder to look for sales on chest freezers. Owning a chest freezer is key to having access to local food throughout the winter. Canning food is valuable also, but let's start easy – we'll discuss canning in the 2012 resolutions!

March – Plan to visit a sugar shack and purchase maple syrup. See how many times you can replace your table sugar with maple syrup. Ever tried it in coffee? Decadent.

April – Sign up for a share in a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA). Each month you will receive a box of vegetables or meat depending on your CSA. Vegetable CSAs generally run June - November while meat CSAs run throughout the whole year. A list of CSAs can be found here on this website.

May – Farmers' markets start. Look for asparagus, rhubarb, wild leeks and early greens. Don't be afraid to ask about a vegetable you are unsure of. Farmers love to talk food.

June – Visit a U-pick strawberry farm. Anyone can do it – you don't have to be in top physical shape or spend a lot of time. If you have never eaten a fresh strawberry, you are in for a treat! This is where the chest freezer comes in. Freeze as many strawberries as you can for winter time. Take your children to help pick.

July – Gardens and farms are in full swing. Visit markets and roadside stands. Start planning meals around what local foods are available. Commit to trying a new food this month and serving it to your family. If you have the means, start purchasing extra food and freeze it. I use yogurt containers and freezer bags for this. Many times you can get a price break on buying in bulk. Talk to a farmer about purchasing large quantities of vegetables or fruits and see what kind of deal you can get. Good items to freeze this month would be spinach, peas, basil (pesto), beans, and whatever fruit you may find (raspberries, blueberries, cherries, for example).

August – The options are limitless! Make sure you have checked out the market stands that sell poultry, beef, lamb and other meats. Again, negotiate if you want to purchase larger quantities. Some farmers are able to sell half a pig or lamb – this may seem like a lot, yet you will freeze most of it and eat it throughout the year.

September – Introduce yourself to one of the farmers whose stand you have been visiting the past few months. It is a wonderful to have a personal connection with the person who grows your food. Now is the time to send to the market a friend or co-worker who has never been. They will have many different fruits and vegetables to choose from and will realize what a wonderful experience it is to go to a farmers' market or visit a roadside stand.

October – Make sure you have already purchased local apples. These can also be frozen. I core and slice them and put them in freezer bags. I also make applesauce and freeze it. Purchase pie pumpkins and pumpkins for Jack-O-Lanterns. You will see them in a variety of places from markets, roadside stands, small grocery stores, and food cooperatives.

November – On this website, visit the local food guide to find a farmer who sells turkeys. There is no reason to buy aThanksgiving turkey raised out of northern NY. Call the farmer early in the month so you can get on their list. They will call you when the turkey is ready. Many times, you will end up with a fresh (never frozen) turkey. Give thanks for all the hard working farmers on Thanksgiving. They never get enough praise or attention for the work they do in growing food for us.

December – Treat yourself to dinner at one of the restaurants using locally grown food in their menu. Tell the chef/owners you appreciate their support of local farmers. Purchase gift certificates to these establishments for holiday gifts.

A perfect example of all this put into action is the New Year dinner we are having tonight. The menu is roast chicken (a chicken I bought at a November market and put in the freezer), acorn squash (you can store local squash for quite awhile in a cool dry space) and because we never got to it in December, potato latkes (storing potatoes, onions and garlic is easy too). Gathering these food items took me a little longer than it will for the non-gardener as I had to dig my potatoes, onions and garlic – but for someone who doesn't grow any of their own food, it would take maybe 15-20 minutes. All of these items are easily purchased at most farmers' markets.

Organization and planning are key to get a system in place and I hope the above recommendations help with that. Who knows? Maybe this resolution will help with the others including weight loss and money management. I bet you will even encourage others this time next year to make the local food New Year's resolution.

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