Wednesday, December 1, 2010

eco-etiquette: eat local—even in winter

My personal plea to support your local food movement
It is an irresistible endeavor to embrace Berks County's extreme array of fresh produce found easily hand-picked at farm stands, markets, and roadside stands throughout the prosperous months of May through October. As convenient as a trip to a supermarket may be, there is something reassuring about knowing where your food comes from, especially if it arrives on your plate sourced from somewhere as close as your backyard. 

Crafting meals solely around locally-grown and produced foods may seem like a difficult task, but not so, in gratitude of tackling the locavore movement—a title that came about a few years back, which applies to individuals who strive to ingest food grown within a 100-mile-and-under radius, an act that helps decrease environmental impacts and supports the local economy.

While eating in-season food in your stomping ground is fresher, cheaper, and more nutritious, it is also incomparable to eating an out-of-season supply that has traveled for days, and sometimes weeks on trucks, sitting stationary even longer in warehouses and storage space. “Most produce in the U.S. is picked four to seven days before being placed on supermarket shelves, and is shipped for an average of 1,500 miles,” reports Local Harvest, an online forum connecting farmers and their food with their nearby community.

The farm-to-table movement, continuously increasing throughout households and local restaurants, celebrates the personal relationships of knowing the grower who gathered your sought-after goods, promotes family farming, and supports local small businesses. The misconception stands that eating locally is often perceived to be more expensive, and sometimes it is, but only specifically for specialty items such as jams or artisan cheeses that are labor-intensive for the producer to offer to the consumer.

But, anyone can buy fresh and buy local—even in winter. Despite the fact that the convenient summer season has departed, there is no need to dumb down your in-house menus. Here's our start-up guide for locating the best-and-fresh edibles, which will allow you to skip sulking sessions around your supermarket's processed surplus.

Boyertown Farmers' Market, located at 100 South Walnut Street, may have marched past its seasonal finish line, but its winter-time market (same place, shorter hours) will set up shop for one day a month until May, with the next vendor session held December 18 from 10 to 11.30 a.m.

Butter Valley Harvest, found on Route 100 in Bally, uses hydroponics (a growing process that boasts higher concentrations of nutrients and minerals than field-grown produce) to breed lettuce and herbs year-round, as well as tomatoes and cucumbers, in a three-bay greenhouse. Managed by K. Ryan and Kenneth Ehst and their families, BVH's nursery constantly crafts full-grown plants, allowing local consumers to experience their harvests year-long during its weekly market hours every Wednesday, from 2 to 5.30 p.m., and Saturday, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Chester County Cheese Artisans is the tantalizing title coining the alliance of local milk makers who craft sheep, goat, and raw cow's milk into gourmet creations. Whether you prefer Amazing Acres Goat Dairy's Cranberry Chevre, Birchrun Hills Farm's Blue, or Yellow Springs Farm's black walnut-encrusted Nutcracker cheese, visiting will assist you in locating creamy pleasures perfect for your specific tastes.

Farm to City, a Philadelphia-based program, rallies together communities, families, and farmers to offer buying clubs (produce pick-ups available in the suburbs) that run year-round, even when CSAs (community-supported agriculture) are out-of-season. Established as an online produce hub, any “real food” shoppers signed on for this season's harvest can source their selections from a list boasting beyond a 500-plus lineup in the seemingly-dead winter.
Wholesome Dairy Farms, of Yellow House, provides its neighbors with a premium supply of high-quality grass-fed raw milk, raw milk cheese, cage-free eggs, grass-fed beef, home-raised veal, grass-fed chickens, and home-grown seasonal produce. Owned by Mark Lopez, an experienced veterinarian in dairy production medicine, the artisanal products cultivated on this farm property are sourced from healthy and comfortable pasture-grazed ayrshire cows who are noted as the top priority on this stretch of land.
Woodsong Hollow Farm, located at 23 Gehris Road in Boyertown, holds a monthly farmers' market from late November to May, featuring seasonal locally-grown products, which include pasture-raised meats and eggs, seasonal greens, squash, root vegetables, mushrooms, raw milk cheeses, and homemade baked goods.
Frecon Farms, Kimberton Whole Foods, and Echo Hill Country Store all flood their food supplies with many hand-selected, locally-bred assortments that a locatarian would dare to devour. Visit any of these hometown gems and together, through their stocks, you'll be able to develop your own grouping of gourmet goods.

(( Also published here, in news, not blues. Swing over there by Sunday, December 5 to comment to win a breakfast basket from Frecon Farms! ))