Eat Local Challenge: Introduction

Welcome to The Prairie Grown: Eat Local Challenge!

Where are you getting your produce this summer?  What would it take [or what gets you there already?] to get you into the field to pick berries instead of from a grocery store isle?  What helps you wait for market day to restock your crisper drawer?  What makes you prioritize weeding your home garden over watching television in the evening?  How do you support your local farmers?  These are important questions, and as we move into this challenge, we’ll have a chance to answer them and act in ways that support what comes up for each of us.

Most large grocery stores have fresh produce stocked all the time – even in the depths of winter. But that produce comes from Mexico and California and New Zealand and isn’t so “fresh” by the time it arrives in Cub Foods. So despite the convenience of being able to walk into a store and get whatever we want, whenever we want it, we choose to embrace the benefits of sourcing fruits, vegetables and other food items from places closer to home. Or at home, in some cases. We try to do the bulk of our shopping at farmer’s markets and small locally owned markets to supplement what is harvested from the garden. If we didn’t have the space or time or desire to tend a garden, we would probably be a member of one of the many CSAs (community supported agriculture) that serve our communities.

There’s nothing like going out to your yard or patio (or even windowsill) to pluck a juicy red tomato from a vine or pick some lettuce for a salad. Anyone can do it-you don’t need a green thumb or years of experience or a 30 acre farm. All you need are some basic tools, a pot or spot in the yard with good soil, some seeds or seedlings, light, water and patience.

For help in getting started with your own growing season, check out this growing guide, or head to your library to borrow a book on gardening. Many community education programs offer gardening classes, as do local extension services, through the master gardener program. But your best bet? Plant something and see what happens. Some things won’t grow. Last year none of our hot pepper plants came up. And some things will grow and then wilt before ripening, or get eaten by bugs. Or deer. But some things will grow and thrive, and it will be amazing. Trust us.

Need some seeds? Seed Savers Exchange, located in Decorah, Iowa, is a non-profit dedicated to saving and sharing (non-GMO) heirloom and open-pollinated seeds. A quick search of “organic seed suppliers” will give you several other options from which to choose.

Gardening not a good fit? Most communities have some kind of farmer’s market where fresh vegetables, eggs, honey, meats and all sorts of other local products can be found.

And better yet, consider becoming a part of a CSA (what’s involved in CSA membership?) to directly support a farm or garden in their mission to provide healthy food to the community.

To learn about your CSA options, farmer’s markets and other sustainably produced food in your area, visit Local Harvest or the Eat Well Guide.

There is such abundance to be found right where we are. Down the road at the market. In the neighbor’s chicken coop. Or right there in the yard.

We invite you to join us in the garden, or in supporting your local farmers this year!

Earth is here so kind, that just tickle her with a hoe and she laughs with a harvest.

~Douglas William Jerrold