Filed under: food, go green, lifestyle | Tags: boggy creek farm, local food, localvore
50 years ago, your grandmother probably had a vegetable garden in her backyard. Remember all of those Ball jars in the basement, and the fall ritual of canning peaches, applesauce, jams, and all sorts of other fresh goodies? I remember helping my own mother boil ear after ear of corn at the end of summer. We’d sit at the kitchen table for what seemed like hours, standing the cooked ears on end and slicing the kernels off the husk. I can still remember slicing off entire sheets of kernels as big as a hershey bar. The sensation of finding one of those gems was as awesome as finding a perfectly corkscrewed curly fry – it was the kind of delectible delight that somehow makes you feel that all is right with the world.
Both of my grandmothers have since passed away, their jars sitting empty on a shelf somewhere. They were a small part of an entire generation of Ball-jar wielding gardeners whose traditions and values are fading as time passes. Convenience has become a bigger and bigger part of our hectic lives – who has time for a garden or canning when you can run to the grocery store and buy whatever you need for the week?
Recently I read a book called “Farewell, My Subaru” by Doug Fine. In it, he made a point that really resounded with me: that virtually no households in the US have more than 2 weeks worth of sustenance in their homes. We rely heavily on our weekly trips to the grocery store. Gone are the days of backyard gardens, and roadside produce stands. Every week, America drives to the grocery store to stock their pantries and fill their tummies. And what is there to buy? Bananas from Ecuador, peaches from Georgia, potatoes from Idaho, and tomatoes from Mexico.
These aren’t any ordinary bananas, peaches and tomatoes, either! Most of the produce that has to travel hundreds or thousands of miles to be sold in a grocery store has been genetically modified to withstand the rigors of travel. Think of the beefsteak tomatoes you see at your local grocery store. Nothing like what grandma used to have, huh? They look like perfection – solid red, perfectly round – a bit freakish, no? Their thicker skins and weak flavor will never produce the fresh-from-the-garden tomato sandwich that I loved in my youth. Worse yet, the corporate farm veggies have been sprayed with god only knows what. Rinsing will help reduce some of the chemicals, but will never remove all of the residue. Scary, isn’t it?
If you’re not the least bit appalled so far – becoming a localvore is probably not something you’re going to want to spend any energy on. But if you’re already contemplating the size and location of your new backyard garden, read on for some of my tips on how to reduce your carbon footprint, give back to your community, and eat healthier!
1- Start a garden! Gardening can be as easy or difficult as you make it. At my mom’s house in Pennsylvania, I dug up a corner of the backyard that was about 15′ x 30′, with just a shovel and a wheelbarrow. I planted spinach, lettuce, zuchinni, tomatoes & squash from seed. The rabbits liked the lettuce more than I did, so they got to reap the benefits of the greens. By the end of summer I was knee deep in zuchinni and tomatoes! I rarely had to do anything with the garden, except pull a few weeds here and there. (Bonus points: If you want to be super-green, start a compost bin to handle your household organic waste & use the nutrient rich results on your new garden!)
2- No room for a garden? Buy local! I’m still a few months out from establishing my own garden, so I’ve committed to shopping at a local farm about a mile away from my house. At Boggy Creek Farm, I buy my potatoes, tomatoes, okra, even free-range chicken eggs! Not only am I reducing my carbon footprint (the only gas used to transport my produce is during my drive to and from the farm), but I’m also putting my income back into my community and enjoying very fresh & organic produce.
3- No place to garden, no local farm to buy from? Check out local farmer’s markets (check out Elizabeth’s post for a comprehensive list!), or be aware of labels as you’re shopping at the grocery store. Depending on where you’re at in the world, there are plenty of local farms that supply big grocery chains. Here in Austin it’s possible to find delicious cherry tomatoes from nearby San Antonio or peaches from Fredericksburg at the local H.E.B. It will add a minute to your shopping trip, but I think you’ll agree that it’s time well spent. You may not notice that your tomatoes taste better, but I guarantee that you will enjoy them 200% more now that you know where they came from.