By Lindsay Courcelle
And so another year begins. With bellies full of holiday cookies and cold winter weather setting in outdoors, many of us are making resolutions for the New Year. I started thinking about a New Year’s resolution I made about a decade ago to eat more local foods.
At the time, my diet consisted almost entirely of food from the supermarket. Eating locally grown foods seemed like a good idea for environmental reasons (locally grown food takes much less fossil fuel than foods trucked here from across the country), health reasons (local foods are fresh and nutritious), and for my community (supporting local farm businesses). Those reasons have not changed for me but have become more deeply ingrained in my life as my husband and I have become farmers ourselves.
For those of you who are wanting to start eating more locally grown foods in 2016, here are some ideas for where to begin.
- Change your grocery shopping habits: Even on a limited budget, it is possible to incorporate local foods. I am no longer surprised to see that many locally grown vegetables are less expensive than in the supermarket. The difference is that at the grocery store, the prices get grouped in with the rest of your groceries and so most people don’t notice that their produce bill is as high as it is. Even if you can only set aside $20 each month for local food, that will get you some meat or cheese and lots of fruit and veggies. Visit the Rutland Area Food Co-op or the farmers market to find local products.
- Budget for local meats: With meat, supermarket prices are hard to beat on the local market. But when you shop locally, you are getting a much higher quality product. Local farmers generally are very selective about the food their animals eat, and are not using antibiotics or inhumane practices like industrial meat producers. A locally raised hamburger or sausage will cost you $1-2 per person. This seems like a reasonable cost for the delicious and nutritious food that you’ll receive, especially considering that a fast food sandwich can be twice as much. A local chicken can sometimes cost as much as $20, which to many people seems unaffordable. But once you start using the carcass to make your own chicken stock, and the amazing health benefits of eating the soup you’ll make with it, it feels like it’s worth it.
- Eat one full “locavore” meal each week: In our house, it is fairly common to eat an entirely locally grown meal, but that wasn’t always the case. Strive for just one meal each week, and then build on that. In the summer, this might be a hamburger, grilled zucchini, and a green salad. In the winter, try roasted chicken and vegetables or a hearty stew. Yoder Farm dry beans make an excellent vegetarian source of protein.
- Source your medicines locally: When I had a case of bronchitis several years ago, I learned that many winter ailments, like a cold or cough, do not require a visit to the drug store. Instead, try herbal remedies and a diet of local foods. Thyme, a great cough suppressant, can be easily grown in a pot at home and then dried for winter use in a tea. Mullein, another of my favorite winter herbs, can be found growing all over. You can source many locally grown herbs, including herbal teas and tinctures, at the farmers market and the Rutland Co-op. Also, eat some of your homemade chicken soup as a remedy for your cold. It really does work!
As with anything, changing habits takes effort. Of my family and friends who have started to eat more local foods, I’ve noticed improvements in their health and well-being. And thanks to the many people who already eat this way, we have a thriving local food scene in Rutland. If you have started to buy locally and have ideas for others, please send me a note.
Lindsay and her husband Scott own Alchemy Gardens, a vegetable farm business in Shrewsbury. Learn more at www.AlchemyGardensVT.com