3. Start a home garden or join a community garden
Short of living on a farm, a personal garden or community garden is the closest you can get to local food. That’s the definition of local. Even though it’s not the high growing season yet, now is a good time to start planning your home garden (considering what you’ll plant, where you’ll get your seeds and supplies, how you’ll make time to tend your garden, etc.) or to research and join a community garden. I wrote about my experience with a tiny garden (and I don’t event have a yard) last year, so truly, anyone can do it. If this is your first time gardening, start small and easy with some herbs or tomatoes. Ask your friends, neighbors and family members who are good at gardening to give you some tips. Joining a community garden is another good way to learn from (and meet) your neighbors.
4. Be your own local food producer
To answer “Yes” to the question If you wanted to eat only locally-produced food for a month, could you? we can’t just focus on growing local food. We also need to make sure that there are local options for processing, cooking, baking, and preserving our food. Supporting local bakeries, butchers, and coffee roasters is a good way to do that. Another way is learning to do those things yourself.
Whether it’s simply teaching yourself basic cooking skills (and using a friend, YouTube video or class to help you) or developing more advanced skills like bread baking, canning, cheese making, etc., taking food production into your own hands can save your family money and ensure that, when times are tough (or when global food prices are high), you have options.
I spent my Sundays in 2016 honing my bread baking skills and trying out different bread recipes. Producing delicious loafs for my family’s weekly lunches and dinners (and sometimes the lucky neighbor) cost me nothing more than the occasional bag of flour and packet of yeast (and now that I’ve graduated to sourdoughs, I don’t even need store-bought yeast). By no means do you need to spend your weekends baking bread in order to learn basic food production skills, but that’s how it manifested for me. And now I have a skill I’ll carry with me for the rest of my life.
5. Shop at a farmers market
According to the USDA, there are more than 8,600 farmers markets currently operating in the United States. That means you have no excuse for not visiting one. Farmers markets usually operate on a weekly basis during the summer and fall months, or more often if you’re lucky to live in a temperate climate or a big city. Farmers markets are an easy and cheap way to get to know local food and purchase whatever looks tasty. They’re also a way to meet farmers and other local producers (candle makers, jam canners, etc.). While a CSA requires a time and financial commitment, a farmers market is a simpler opportunity to get yourself eating food from nearby farms.
Local food options are a key component of a strong town because, quite simply, we all need food to survive. If you rely heavily on food shipped in from other states and other countries, you are at the whims of those production cycles and costs. In order to be truly strong, your town needs multiple reliable sources of local food. You can help your town get stronger by trying out one of the five methods above.
Article by Rachel Quednau originally published on Strongtowns.org at https://www.strongtowns.org/journal/2017/2/6/5-ways-to-support-local-food
Rachel Quednau serves as Communications Director for Strong Towns and has been a regular contributor and podcast host for Strong Towns since 2015. Rachel is a Midwesterner currently living in Milwaukee, WI. Previously, she worked for several organizations fighting to end homelessness at the federal and local levels. She draws from her experiences living in New York City, Washington, DC, Walla Walla, WA and Minneapolis, MN to help her build better places wherever she is. You can find her musings on Twitter @rquednau. One of her favorite ways to get to know a new city is by going for a run in it.