Farmers Hands With Local VeggiesWe’re now starting week 6 of The Goodness Challenge.  It’s true that we’re still relative newcomers to the world of “green”; however, even a newbie can see that one key element of doing our part is buying local.  There are countless reasons to shift our spending to supporting local.  Here are the ones that tipped the scale for us.

Environmentally friendly.  Check out this Infographic from eLocal.com for some staggering stats on the significance of the environment impact of shipping our food from far away.  Yikes.

In addition to the packaging and shipping of the food itself, the production and use of chemicals also has a significant impact on the environment.  As much as 40 percent of the energy used in the food system goes towards the production of chemical fertilizers and pesticides.  (Source: Sustainable Table)  Double yikes.

Sustainability.  Typically, local farms are operated by farmers who care about working and preserving their land for future generations.  By supporting these farmers, we are ensuring the health and safety of our future food supply.  I like to hope that we will never come to the point when we are dependent on others for food, especially if we can prevent it so easily.

Prosperity.  Giving our dollars to local businesses helps ensure that funds are reinvested in our communities and that our local charities thrive.

Taste.  I find that things just taste so much better when they are picked and eaten within a few hours.  (Apparently, there are also more nutrients in just-picked produce.)  Imported produce is often picked before it’s ripe and then ripened in transit.  That’s not really my bag.

Our Challenge

We live in growing zone 4.  That means our growing season is – well – short. It’s July 4 and there are about 6 different types of fruits and vegetables ripe here.  Nonetheless, we are going to spend the week attempting to buy (and eat) only local produce, dairy and meat. (That last part should be easier now that we are flexitarians. See our recent post: Good All Around: Become A Flexitarian for more details.)

At the end of the week, we’ll report back on how we did.  How much did it cost us (or save us)?  Did we enjoy the food?  What did we give up?  Can we keep it up?  What will we do in the wintertime?

Our initial research has revealed a couple of local gems, so we’re very excited to embark on this next adventure.  Be sure to check back later this week for our “go local” tale.

Updated July 7, 2011 by Andrea

Our Tale

I am a lover of markets, so this week was fun for me. I liked perusing the aisles and handling all of the produce. Asking questions of the various stall-keepers and farmers. Here’s the tale of how we “went local”.  As always, feel free to skip to Our Findings if you’d rather not indulge in a good story.

Just Start

What’s the best way to get local produce in Saint John, NB? There are a few options. We could either (1) search the grocery stores (limited options), (2) search the markets (better, but could entail lots of travel) or (3) go with a produce pack from a local farmer. We vastly preferred option 3; however, we were waitlisted with our local provider of natural (not certified organic, but chemical, pesticide, insecticide, herbicide and chemical fertilizer free) produce – Dave’s Produce Packs.

On Saturday, we hit Baleman’s Produce at the City Market to see what we could find. Luckily, a few things have actually survived the rainy spring and managed to ripen in spite of the weather – mainly lettuce, beet greens, strawberries, swiss chard and kale. We also picked up some steaks from Dean’s Meats that the owner said were from the region. (We eat meat on the weekends only.  You can check out Good All Around: Become A Flexitarian for more details.)

Next we headed over to Billy’s Seafood for a couple of tuna steaks and then to Lord’s Lobsters for some fresh Atlantic salmon. Local fish and seafood are not hard to find here in the Maritimes.  Wild salmon, however, are more or less a thing of the past in the east, so we bought farm-fed.

I’ve since been researching farm-fed salmon and I’m relatively undecided on whether the benefits of buying local outweigh the health concerns over farmed salmon. (Comments, anyone?)  I’m thinking perhaps we’ll just swap fish preferences altogether and eat more – say – mackerel?

Although we’re focusing on produce this week, we also picked up a number of other local favorites in the City Market. A huge shout-out to Joni for having the healthiest, tastiest cookies ever – aptly named “Joni’s Healthy Bites”. We also love the samosas at A Touch of Spice and the to-die-for hummus at Turkans.  If you’re in the Saint John area and want more of our local favorites, please check out Carl and Andrea’s Local, Organic and Natural Suppliers.

In the summer months, there is also a local, Saturday-only farmers market nearby called the Kingston Market.  We prefer this market when time allows, but unfortunately we couldn’t get out there this week.

On our way home, we discovered that our grocery store sells Sussex cheddar cheese with local milk made only about 45 minutes away. Cheese is a major staple at our house and can be used not only for nourishment, but for bribery of our 3 year old. We stocked up on delicious Sussex medium cheddar. For milk, we always opt for Northumberland, which is a Maritime co-operative. (We swapped as part of our Spend Responsibly: GoodGuide Your Groceries challenge.)

We had a harder time with yogurt. Northumberland supplies Yoplait yogurt exclusively for the NB market, but we are not really fruity yogurt eaters. I’ve yet to find a local supplier of whole milk yogurt. Suggestions, anyone?

Then, low and behold – we got the call. On Monday, we officially became a Dave’s Produce Packs customer. Almost too convenient!  Carl rushed off for the 4:30pm pick-up at the university and returned with 2 full bags of yummy, fresh (picked that day), healthy (chemical-free), local produce. One look at the strawberries and we just knew. Summer has arrived. Life is good.

We then spent the week cooking and eating our delicious produce. Let’s just say we are getting our fill of greens. Beet greens. Leaf lettuce. Swiss chard. Arugula. Kale.  Oh my!

Kale

OMG – the kale.  I have never been a kale fan, but this week almost drove me over the edge. Here’s how it went down. As you now know, we went to the market on Saturday for a few local items. While happily browsing, the kids became antsy, so I took them to the park while Carl went back to the produce stand for some local leaf lettuce. He came back with kale. At this point, the kids really needed to head home, so we did not return the kale.

So, we have a little bit of kale to deal with. No big deal.

As you also know, we picked up our first produce pack at the university campus down the road on Monday.  Inside the pack was a lifetime supply of kale. (Alright, maybe not that much, but a lot!) What am I going to do with all of this kale?

I am not a waster, so I knew it had to be dealt with. I literally googled “how to make kale taste good”. It turns out I am not alone. There are other kale-doubters like me. Lots of them! I started excitedly scrolling through some of the sites. That’s when I discovered the most amazing thing: kale chips. (If you are a fellow kale-doubter, check out this recipe on smittenkitchen.com.  It will change your life.)

Our Findings

The Time

We did alright eating local. Overall, the shopping was fun and – now that we are getting our produce packs – manageable in terms of time commitment. We plan to continue with the produce packs and a weekly trip to the market along with a stop on the way home at the grocery store. This should keep us well-supplied. (It’s amazing how much we’ve cut back on driving trips since our Drive Responsibly: Reduce Your Carbon Emissions challenge.)

The Taste

I can now say this with confidence, “When it comes to taste, you cannot beat local.  Unless it’s local and organic.”  Seriously, you can just taste the freshness.  Strawberries sweetly melt away.  Dill adds a warm punch.  Crisp salad greens supply that special crunch.  All good.

Local In The Wintertime: Just Stock Up?

I promised an answer to the question “What will we do in the wintertime?”.  And to be honest, I don’t really have one.  One thing we will definitely do is stock up on fall vegetables that will keep well in a cool, dry place.  (I’m thinking potatoes, apples, onions, squash, etc.)  But I’m pretty sure I’d be lying (or at least overly optimistic) if I said that we’d survive all winter on those alone.  We’re going to keep working away at this one.  If you have any suggestions, please drop us a line.

Things We Cannot Live Without

Apples. I’m on the hunt for local, organic apples. We typically buy organic apples because apples are at the top of the “dirty dozen” list – the Environmental Working Group‘s list of foods that most absorb pesticides.

There are lots of local apples available that have been stored from last fall’s harvest. But local and organic apples? It seems we’ve missed the boat on those. I’ve now called and emailed 6 different organic apple farms in the region and no one has apples left from last fall. So, what do I do? Local or organic? In this case, unfortunately, I’m going to have to go with organic – mainly because my kids love apples and I just can’t feed them those shiny, waxy treated items you find in the grocery store. I’m not giving up though. If anyone knows of local and organic (or pesticide-free, herbicide-free, fungicide-free) apples available prior to September, please let me know.  Worst case scenario, we’ll stock up on the local organics when they become available this fall.

Bananas. The one non-local item that we can’t do without is – hands down – bananas. We have a 9 month old who eats only a few different foods. He has a banana each morning and I’m not really willing to give up the healthy calories in favor of another starch like rice cereal.

In addition, our 3 year old has a peanut butter and banana shake for breakfast each day. We tried changing it to a strawberry shake, but that didn’t fly and she went breakfast-less for 2 days as nothing else would do.

So, bananas it is. If only we didn’t live in Canada, this might not be such a problem.

The Money

Going local is not really more expensive. Unfortunately, going local and organic is pricey. Please check out Carl and Andrea’s Produce List to see exactly what we paid. This week’s local produce cost only $.25 more; however, local and organic produce was a whopping $16.11 more expensive – almost 36 percent more.

We carefully considered this.  In the end, we decided that it was worth it to pay extra for organic – especially for the “dirty dozen” – and avoid introducing harsh chemicals into the delicate systems of our little ones.  And we get the side benefit of knowing that we aren’t eroding our local soil or hurting the sustainability of our local food supply.

The Goodness

When I started talking with local farmers this week (and got to experience their gratitude firsthand), it really hit home just how important a change this is. When it comes right down to it, this is the livelihood of our neighbors. It’s not that buying local is any more “good” than any of the other challenges we’ve attempted. It’s just that the good is so clearly and visibly connected to our lives.

So, this one is sort of personal. As such, I’m going to implore you all to take the step. Get to know your neighbors. Buy local. You won’t be sorry.

 

 

Interested in our other challenges? Check out The Goodness Challenge.


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Just a small town mom trying to make the world a better place for my kids. One small change at a time.

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