Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Planning Ahead

Planning Ahead

A couple of months ago I read the book Plenty by Alisa Smith and J.B. Mackinnon about a couple in Vancouver, BC who ate only food grown within 100 mi. for a year. I highly recommend it. While I am not ready to banish coffee, cocoa, and bananas (among other things) from my diet it was inspirational to see that it is possible, even in a small apartment in a big city. The authors included good tips and information about how they accomplished their goal. 

Bread requires planning ahead and setting aside a
couple of hours
One of the things that stood out to me was how much planning the project took. This is something that's kind of hard for me as I am still getting used to not moving every 6 to 9 months and the idea that I might someday have a garden that I plant asparagus in (asparagus requires waiting three years before you actually get to eat any). Smith and Mackinnon had to can much of their food and stored things like onions, squash, potatoes and nuts so they would have something to eat in the winter. 

Minneapolis has a great local food scene, and several wonderful food co-ops that source a lot of local food. BUT almost all of this delicious local food disappeared from grocery shelves at some point in the winter. At some point beginning around February I noticed that Shaun and I were a) spending a lot more money on produce and b) eating more exotic things (like bananas) and fewer organic items. You might say, "well, you live in Minnesota, I've heard it's an icy tundra covered by 12 feet of snow for 6 months out of the year. Of course there is no local produce in the winter".  That was more or less what I though as well, and then I found Featherstone Farm. 

Gardening requires starting seeds weeks in advance, and
preparing your soil (among other things)
Featherstone Farm is a certified organic, family farm, and they offer a Winter CSA! In Minnesota! They deliver to several places in the Twin Cities, Rochester, and a couple of other places. A friend of mine got the Winter CSA last year and highly recommended it. Another particularly great thing about Featherstone was that they offered multiple payment options. You can pay the whole amount upfront or you can pay in four installments. The installment plan is great since Shaun and I are WWOOFing all summer we have a very tight budget, but spreading the payments out means we're able to make most of them when we start working again in the fall. Installments also mean that you can use SNAP (formally Food Stamps) to pay for a CSA more easily since you don't have to use more than your entire month's benefit to pay for the CSA one month. 

Thus far Featherstone is the only winter CSA I have found, and last year they sold out and I wanted to make sure we signed up early. So Shaun and I planned ahead and are looking forward to being able to source at least some of our produce locally this winter! I'll be sure to share some of the recipes we develop here.

Making jam requires harvesting fresh fruit and not eating it
all at once :)
In addition to signing up for a CSA I have come up with a couple of other goals that require planning ahead that I think will help me more locally sourced and sustainable food this year.

  • Sign up for CSA (check)
  • Purchase Staples in bulk - tentative list of staples to be purchase in bulk:
    • hard red wheat berries
    • barley
    • oats
    • chickpeas
    • black beans
    • kidney beans
  • Can tomatoes (I am thinking 52 jars but that may be a stretch as I have never done tomatoes)
  • Make meal plans at the beginning of each week
  • Give up the clothes dryer
  • Ask farmers market growers about their practices - I like to think that all of the growers at the farmers market use more or less organic methods, but I know this isn't true. I need to do some research as to what types of methods I really don't want to support, a certain chemical for example, or if they spray after the plant has fruited, and come to the market prepared with specific questions.

Can you think of any other ways that I can use planning ahead to eat more locally and sustainably grown produce?

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