Last week, I attended a talk with Amy Cotler, who wrote The Locavore Way. I took some steps this year to eat more locally, like shopping at the Copley Square Farmer’s Market, trying local grass fed beef, and buying beets from a winter farmer’s market. And yet I feel that I can, and should, do so much more.
There are lots of reasons to eat locally which were discussed in this interactive session. Buying from local farmers keeps those dollars in the community, which is important for economic development. Local farms generally operate in ways which are more environmentally friendly, and use fair labor practices. However, it’s important to get to know your farmer so you can make sure. Eating locally often allows us to enjoy diverse foods, and whole foods promote good health. In the end, buying local food supports an alternative food system, and preserves our choice.
Much of the discussion focused on practical ways in which everyone, even college students, can eat locally. Amy stressed that you should focus on what you can do, and not try to be perfect. One key strategy, and perhaps the most important to me, is learning how to cook local food. There are endless recipe ideas across the Internet, and even on Amy’s blog, and she encouraged everyone to improvise with preparing local foods. While you may sigh when you get a large bunch of kale, again, from your CSA, once you learn how to cook it in different ways, you can better appreciate the vegetable. I really agree with this point, and by pushing my boundaries to shop more locally this year, I also learned to cook and enjoy some new foods, like pea tendrils.
Yes, it can be more expensive to purchase local food, but there are sometimes deals when food is purchased towards the end of the season, or in bulk. You can share the food among family and friends, or preserve it by canning, or by freezing. We got a deal on tomatoes and had a family bonding session this year making sauce. By sharing local food, and the meals you create, you’re also spreading the message and encouraging others to buy and eat locally too.
Like many people, my association with local food is mostly in the summer and fall. I think about delicious strawberries in July, fresh corn on the cob in August, and crunchy apples in September. Amy pointed out that there are options for local produce in the winter, including carrots, parsnips, rutabagas, cabbage, and onions. Those vegetables might not seem quite as exciting as a perfectly ripe tomato, but they can make a delicious meal. In fact, I’ve already picked a root vegetable recipe to make for Christmas Eve.
My question during the talk was about buying local meat. I do not want to support the commercial meat industry, and yet local meat is often prohibitively expensive. Amy suggested that I get together with a group, and think about purchasing a whole cow or pig from a local farmer. This generally reduces the overall price, and uses meat from the entire animal, rather than just the most popular cuts. I’ll think about that.
I am so happy that I found my way to this event, based on a tweet from Elizabeth. The Locavore Way is on my Christmas list, and if Santa delivers, I’ll do a book review. Thanks to Amy Cotler for coming to BU to talk about this with us!