Thursday, July 22, 2010

Simple Lives Thursday #2 Combine Backyard Gardening, Farmer's Market, and CSA shares

Hi everybody!
I've been on vacation this week (be jealous, because I'll be on it for another couple weeks) so Simple Lives Thursday has been my first opportunity to post.
I'm excited to join Wardeh, Diana, and Annette to share some tips for living a simpler lifestyle.  If you haven't checked out these bloggers yet, I encourage you to do so!
Today I'd like to talk about using backyard gardening, farmer's market, and community supported agriculture to achieve a diverse and satisfying food routine.  We've used all three this summer and it has resulted in some very healthy and creative cooking which has brought us together as a family and closer to our community and our food.  Each of the three has its benefits and drawbacks, so I'd like to share what I've learned this summer and hopefully it can be helpful to you.

Back/front Yard Gardening

We're lucky enough to have space and arable land, so we use as much of it as possible to grow food for ourselves.  Aside from the end product, growing your own food is a worthwhile activity in the way that playing an instrument or learning a language is: practicing something over and over and learning to do it well is an achievement in itself.  Going out into the garden nightly and fussing for 20 minutes is centering for me.  Here's what I've learned about backyard gardening:

1)  Grow only things you love to eat and that you can preserve for later.
    We love tomatoes, and that's why we have around 30 plants in one plot.  We'll can them and eat them all summer.

2) Herbs are simple to grow and can be done almost anywhere in a container.  
    They vastly improve the quality of your cooking, and can also be dried or frozen.  Again, grow what you love and use.  We grow basil, sorrel, oregano, thyme, and dill in the front yard.

Even if you have room to grow somethings, few people have enough space or a long enough growing season to feed themselves from the fat of the land, so buying from professionals is necessary.  Farmer's market is one of the best ways to buy food because it's cheap, local, and seasonal.

Farmer's Market

1)  Buy seasonal produce in bulk and preserve for later.
    I love making pickled cucumbers, so I bought a ton of them and pickled last weekend, and plan to do so again every other week until they disappear.

Try asking the farmer if they have any seconds or slightly damaged produce.  This is a great way to get a lot of produce that's perfect for canning.

2) Develop a relationship by patronizing the same farmer every week.
    This allows you to get to know them and ask any questions about your food, and it also sends a strong message to the farmer: I am here to support the work that you do, and I'll be here next week.  I love my pork lady, as you probably know, and that was built by meeting her each week and talking to her about what she does and what I want.

3)  Try out new and interesting products that you wouldn't normally buy.
I don't usually buy cheese curds, but I really want to see more cheese and other value added products at the farmer's market, so I bought this bag which turned out to be delicious.  You can also see the shallots in the background which were a style I'd never seen before.  They have a hard thick outside layer.  I had no plans for them when I bought them, but it was easy to come up with something that used them and now I can't wait to get more next week.

Finally, if you're lucky you have the opportunity to participate in Community Supported Agriculture, or CSA.  Here's a link to Local Harvest where you can look for CSA farms in your area, and here's my CSA tag.  My tips for a CSA

1)  Know your farm/farmer.
    When I pick up my share each week I speak with Susan about how the weather is working for the farm.  I felt confident giving my money to this farm because I knew many people who had gotten shares in the past.

2) Manage your expectations.
  Learn to love greens :) and know that you invest up front in a farm so you can support it, not so you can get a specific amount or type of produce each week.  This is simply the nature of a CSA and what makes it so important to the local foods movement.

3)  Dedicate time and energy to cleaning and cooking food.
  Cooking is a non-negotiable when you have a CSA, as is breaking down raw produce right from the ground.  Other than soft things like strawberries and lettuce, most produce can be cleaned upon purchase so they're handy for later.  Invest in a salad spinner!

Here are my most recent two shares

I hope this post helps you see how these three elements can come together to make for great healthy eating!
Happy Thursday, and please link up your post to this one!


Diana@Spain in Iowa said...

Alicia, our routines are very similar, lol! Your tomato plants look great!! I can't wait until mine start to ripen :)

Ally @ Sweet & Savory said...

Love reading about your garen and CSA you ever go to the farm right outside Mt. Vernon on Hwy. 30? My husband and I have driven by it twice now and their barn/land just looks so beautiful!!! I'd love to check it out:)

Karrey said...

Oooh, cheese curds! I don't know if you guys are big grillers, but grilled cheese curds are currently my new favorite summer thing. Until we got a little cast iron skillet to grill them in, we would make a little boat out of foil. They get smokey and melt together and they're simply delicious.

Lara Alexander said...

I also grow some of my own food and support local farmers. I am slowly getting the hang of figuring out what I actually eat the most of, and then growing the right amount. Turns out that I eat a lot of beets! And yes, your advice to learn to love greens is an especially important one if you live in the Pacific NW like I do!

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