Who's Your Farmer?
That's my Dad on Peconic Bay, harvesting our one peach of the summer! I grew up going out to North Fork of Long Island in the summer and spending many an afternoon hopping from one farm stand to the next with my Mom to purchase the freshest produce available for that nights' dinner. We left the house not really knowing what we would end up with - baby beets, string beans, new potatoes etc. Some of the farm stands were at neighboring houses and others were at farms offering a wide variety of fruits and vegetables. I fondly remember pulling off the side of the road to get a dozen ears of freshly picked corn from an unmanned stand. Payment was made by putting your money in a glass jar on the table. The unpleasant smell of cauliflower growing was a reminder that summer was coming to an end and it was time to go back to school. Since moving to Westchester, I have missed the accessibility of farm fresh vegetables and trips to the farm stand.
It's hard to know what's in season anymore, now that everything is available all year round. Berries from Chile, broccoli from California, avocados from Mexico - while it's great that we have access to this food, it's not the way we are meant to be eating. We are meant to be eating local, organic food that is in season. While this may sound like a tall order, your local organic farmer is gearing up right now; plowing fields, planting seeds, and planning for all the produce they will bring to market this spring, summer and fall.
An easy way to enjoy local, seasonal and organic food is to join a CSA. CSA stands for Community Supported Agriculture. When you join a CSA, you agree to pay your local farmer during the planting season when their expenses are at their peak. This entitles you to a share of the farm's crop every week for a specified period. Your share is delivered to a central location in your community on a specific day for pickup. My farmers are Pete and Deborah Kavakos of Stoneledge Farm. They deliver the freshest, most nutrient dense produce you can buy to communities each week from Connecticut to New York City for 24 weeks starting in June. I buy a vegetable and fruit share, but some CSA's also supply local cheeses, eggs, maple syrup and pastured meats. A great way to get started with a CSA is to find a partner and split a share. Stoneledge Farm also donates a portion of their harvest to local shelters and food pantries, giving back to the communities that support them. There are CSA's popping up all over the nation and the planting season is the time to join (find yours here).
Each week this summer, I will bring one of my kids with me, recycled bags in hand, to weigh out our share of produce, hoping to teach the lessons that I learned as a child. We will also work at the CSA one day during the summer - sorting vegetables, greeting all the members who come to pick up their shares and delivering the leftovers to the local food pantry.
So, while I love you Whole Foods and all that you have to offer, I am going away this summer. See you in October - or maybe November, depending on what my farmers have in store for my family!