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Operation: Feed the Family, Save the Planet, and Don't Go Broke

Garlic Scapes
It’s time to devise a plan.   There are now 3½ weeks until the first farmers' market of the season opens (but who's counting?).  We've got some down time; might as well use it wisely.

The farmers' markets in Green Country are only open from April to October, and the rest of the year we have to fend for ourselves.  Well, that is, if you depend wholly on the farmers' markets.  There are other ways.  And, if you're not a farmer yourself, and you want to get as close to the source of your food as you can, it's good to know what your resources are.  

Let's start here—where to find pure, unadulterated local food from the people who grow/raise/prepare it for you.  The aforementioned farmers' markets are, of course, the simplest way to go.  There you'll find produce (of course), meat, dairy, prepared foods (like baked goods and spice blends), along with various and sundry other items like ultra-local honey and hand-made non-food items (you know, soaps and candles and pottery and hand-spun llama wool—that kind of stuff).  Last year there was even a stand at the Cherry Street Farmers' Market selling all-natural snow cones in all kinds of fascinating flavors.  BUT, the earliest market (which does appear to be Cherry Street, incidentally) doesn't start until April 9th this year.  Today is March 15th.  So... what to do in the mean time?  

First of all, there's the: 

I just recently discovered this.  It seems to have been created to fill the off-season gap for local foods.  Here, you'll find many of the same farmers and producers that are at Green Country's farmers' markets.  Their last pickup date for the month, and for the season (looks like they shut down when the traditional farmers' markets open up in April) is March 26th, so hurry and get your order in!

Next, something I haven't tried, but strongly considered and see no reason why you shouldn't:

This is the largest coop in Oklahoma, carrying ONLY products grown/raised/produced in Oklahoma.  

Now, I realize I'm a little late here for the March delivery, and you do have to pay a one-time fee to join the coop, but it really does look like it would be worth it.  Here we are, in the middle of March, with nary a vegetable in sight, and, besides the vast selection of meat, dairy, and other products, I found lettuce, kale, spinach, collards, turnips, green onions, radishes, mushrooms of all kinds, baby leeks, and baby raab.  I don't really know what raab is, but we'll find out soon enough.  (That one's slated for the WTF page.)

As a side note, it looks like you can get Oklahoma grown flour here--but only wheat.  If you're looking for gluten-free flour, you might have to make your own or buy it from a store like Whole Foods or Reasors.  We'll keep our eye out, though.  You never know what you might find when hunting local treasure.

Another way to seek out your local growers are these two nifty little websites:

On each of these sites you can put in your zip code or city and pull up growers, producers, etc. in your area.  I've used both sites and have gotten different results from each, so it's good to check both if you want to know who's growing, raising, and selling what around here.  You may find a nearby farmer that has a farm stand or store, but doesn't necessarily go to the farmers’ markets--they may have just what you're looking for.  

Now for the not going broke part.  

It is a bald fact that--dollar for dollar--real, unprocessed, clean (i.e., raised without pesticides or herbicides and not genetically modified) food from a farm near you costs more than the conventional stuff you can get at the grocery store.  It also costs less to buy a 99 cent hot dog at your local Stop ‘N Shop than it does to buy the ingredients to make a fresh salad, but this is the kind of disparity we’re working with--quality versus quantity, health versus convenience.  And, you know what?  I'm not a rich woman.  Not even close.  I live paycheck to paycheck, trying to juggle a budget and stay afloat like most people in this economy.  But, call me crazy, I think feeding my family sustainably-produced food is vitally important.

First of all, I believe that eating good, local food makes us healthier and that, by skipping the poison and the processed made-with-ingredients-I-can't-pronounce “convenience foods,” we save extra trips to the doctor, which saves hundreds and possibly thousands of dollars over time.  Second, I believe that buying food that is made or grown close to home makes for a healthier environment.  Buying local contributes to my community, which makes for healthier, happier, more productive people; it motivates me and makes the world feel brighter, safer, and more inspiring.  I see something good happening here, something worthwhile.  This as a way to pick up our local economy and help people live their dreams, know their land, and feel a sense of connection with each other.  Eating with the seasons (that is, with your season, wherever you are) and taking advantage of the food that's grown and raised sustainably where you live does so much good on so many levels that it is simply worth more than conventional food from far away.  The current corporate food system brings us cheap food that is highly processed or farmed, one crop at a time, over thousands of acres of land which is stripped of its nutrients and artificially controlled to give higher, yet arguably less nutritious, yields.  

I’d like to see what happens when we, the people, do it ourselves.

Here are the elements of my current eat-mindfully-don't-go-broke strategy.  There are only three (so far), but I think they cover a lot of ground:

1. Make as much food “from scratch” as possible.  I'm willing to bet I can make organic potato chips (for example) cheaper than I can buy them prepackaged from Whole Foods.  And potentially even cheaper than a bag of Lay’s or Ruffles.   

2. Eat lower on the food chain more often.  I'm not vegetarian and have no plans to be, but I do believe that meat doesn't have to be eaten at every meal, and besides, it's expensive!  So, by cutting down on how often we eat like carnivores, and how much meat is incorporated in a meal when we do, we save money to put toward more vegetables and staple items.

3. Grow your own.  Nothing is more local, more fresh, or more cost-effective than food you grow yourself.  I know not everyone has a yard in which to plant a garden.  But, even in an apartment, there are ways you can grow some of your own food.  There is much information out there about container gardening and urban farming.  You can get involved with a community garden.  There are ways, if you’re determined and willing to get a little creative.

Laura  – (March 17, 2011 at 2:30 AM)  

Great overview of the challenges and resources. If you succeed in making those organic potato chips, I'd like to see that recipe! :)

Life with my Aspie  – (March 17, 2011 at 7:06 AM)  

Great post with a wealth of information! I'm following the links you provided to see what results come up for our location.

Devouring the Seasons  – (March 17, 2011 at 9:13 AM)  

Thanks, Laura! I really hope we can collect a lot more info as this journey continues, try to sort of tie our local food system together, so to speak. As for the potato chips, my husband and I have made our own chips before (he's really the potato chip master ;) and they're so easy and the flavor is beyond anything you can imagine in your wildest potato chip dreams. My only challenge now is going to be what oil to cook them in, since finding out canola is not going to be my go-to oil anymore. But I'll post it when I've conquered that mountain!

Life with my Aspie - Thanks so much! I really hope the links help. Any way we can spread the love! :)

~ Angela

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