5 Ways to Eat Local Beyond the Farmers' Market


By EatingWell Editors, EatingWell In Season: The Farmers' Market Cookbook (2009)

Support your community and reap the harvest with these ideas for going local.

1. Join a CSA

If you like to cook and like to try new foods, get a community supported agriculture (CSA) share from a local farm. You pay up front, which helps the farmer pay for early-season costs in exchange for farm-fresh produce each week. Typically pick-ups are at the farm or a central location like a local business. If you work for a large company and your fellow employees are interested as well, ask if the farm will do a workplace drop-off. Before you commit, ask about the amount of produce to expect in a typical pick-up to see if it’s manageable. You may also find you get produce you’re not familiar with (rutabaga, anyone?). But that provides a great opportunity to get ideas from your farmer and other CSA members. And, of course, the recipes in this book will inspire you as well.

Find a CSA near you at localharvest.org or ask farmers at the market if they have CSA shares.

2. Buy the Cow

Don’t just buy a burger, buy the cow—or a pig or a lamb. Small farms are increasingly selling “animal shares”: a whole animal or portion of one. The farm takes care of processing, USDA inspection and packaging. Buying an animal is a great way to save money if you are committed to eating locally raised meat, as prices are lower per pound (usually $3 to $5, depending on type of animal and how much you’re buying). Make sure you have adequate freezer space before purchasing an animal. If the amount of meat seems daunting, ask friends or family to go in on a share with you.

Find a local farm where you can buy meat direct at localharvest.org or check your local classified ads.


3. Start a Kitchen Garden

A kitchen garden is a great way to supplement your trips to the grocery store. Whether you grow a pot of herbs on your windowsill or replace a bed of flowers with dark leafy greens, your kitchen garden will inspire you to celebrate fresh flavors. Start by making a list of foods, focusing on crops that you can’t always buy fresh. Lettuce is easy to sow and quick to grow. Fresh herbs pack lively flavors, and edible flowers serve as pretty garnishes. Plant your seeds in rich, organic soil supplemented with organic compost, usually found at garden centers, to give plants a boost. Mail-order seed sources offer a wide selection, or go to local nurseries for heirloom tomatoes and ornamental edibles, such as rainbow chard and Tuscan kale.

Learn how to start a successful garden at gardeners.com or seedsofchange.com.

4. Join a Community Garden

If you want to garden but don’t have space where you live, get involved in a community garden. A community garden can be as small as a simple bed next to a building or an acre of land in a park. The garden may be divvied into small plots, each worked by an individual. Other gardens are worked collectively and all involved share the bounty.

To start your own community garden, go to communitygarden.org.

5. Pick Your Own

Enjoy the sunshine while gathering berries, apples or citrus fruit at a local pick-your-own farm. Some farms even give you the opportunity to dig potatoes or cut flowers. Freeze extra berries and stone fruit or try making freezer jam. Both are great ways to enjoy summer-ripe fruit all year long.

Find a you-pick farm near you at pickyourown.org.