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2.21.2011

Do you buy local?

I try, but I also know that I could do better.  I absolutely have to balance buying local with minding my budget, which sometimes is simple and sometimes... isn't.  Right now I'm obviously not buying any local produce- I just discovered that there is a winter farmer's market in a local town, but I haven't checked it out yet so I don't know what's available or how much it costs.  But that aside, there's not much available in Minnesota in February.  The obvious way to combat this is to grow as much as I can this summer and put up or cold store as much as I have room for.  And by living out of my pantry I am at least not buying much imported produce- we have eaten some frozen veggies this month (some green beans from my garden, but the rest store bought) and also relied heavily on the sauerkraut and sour pickles I made last summer.  In fact, if anything positive has come from this pantry month it is exactly that- before I had kind of forgotten about my little stock of fermented veg.  I am pleased that they are still good this far into the winter and hope they stay that way until we are able to use them up.  Thanks to them we are getting lots of vitamin C and B, as well as other micronutrients, without having to rely on vitamins.  But it still bugs me a little that I have to rely on outside vegetable sources- vegetable that have probably been shipped thousands of miles just to be on my table.

But I don't like guilt.  I mean, I don't like it for long.  A tiny bit of guilt incites action, so the initial feeling has a purpose (and I appreciate anything with a purpose).  But I don't allow myself to continue with an action that makes me feel guilty.  Which is why I just expanded my garden to 50 x 50, almost double what it was last year, and 10 feet bigger in each direction than what I originally planned.  I'm sure that it will be a LOT of work, and I will probably cuss a lot while I'm doing it and wonder if it's worth it (but thanks to Mother Earth News it will be a LOT less work... seriously, if you're intimidated by the amount of work it would take to start a new garden, you HAVE to check out this link...).  And that is also why I have resolved to supplement my summer produce with the farmer's market.  I did this last summer, but I was unorganized and unfocused so I didn't do it consistently.  I bought some extra cukes for pickles, banana peppers and tomatoes to can, and green beans to freeze, but that's it.  This summer I plan to plant more beans, peppers, tomatoes, and cukes than I could possibly put up (hopefully...).  That way I can focus my resources at the farmers market on things I don't grow much of or at all like broccoli (my utter failure at growing broccoli last year convinced me to take a year off) and other brassicas as well as maple syrup and honey.

I have also resolved to buy more from the co-op.  Recently I mentioned that they almost closed, and that scare was enough to make me realize that if I want the benefits of having them, I need to make sure I give them as much of my business as possible.  And there are many things I should be buying from them for other reasons- they sell fresh nut butters, which I need to start using instead of the processed peanut butter I've been buying, non-homogenized milk, and local products.

So by next fall my proportion of responsibly and locally raised should be dramatically higher than it is now, and I feel pretty good about that.  I will have beef and pork in my freezer from my parents and in-laws, chicken from my own flock, eggs from my laying chickens, produce from my garden and the farmer's market and local CSA, and, hopefully, grains from a local farmer (I vaguely remember a stall at one of the farmer's market that sold grain, but I never asked about amounts or pricing).  The only staple that leaves out is dairy.  It is my goal to find a local farmer with excess pastured milk that I can buy.

My point is that it's a process.  I am very near to my goal, but it has taken three years to get even this far.  And I am lucky to live where I live and have the space and resources available to me (as well as living in an area where local products are highly valued- this isn't the case in many areas, even other rural areas of the midwest). But everyone, regardless of location or resources, can do more to support local agriculture and businesses.

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