Eating Seasonally, Eating Locally

Day 160 of 365

We used to eat frozen dinners from a box. We bought all of our food from the grocery store, and I thought farmer’s markets were just a novelty. When we started growing our own food about 10 years ago, I didn’t realize how much it was going to change us. We started growing our own food because we wanted our children to eat organically, which can be expensive if you’re buying it at the grocery store, and we wanted to get outside of our food system as much as possible. I knew it was going to change the way we eat. I mean, that was the goal.

I didn’t know how much I was going to fall in love with delicious, homegrown food. I didn’t know how good a tomato or a piece of corn or a strawberry freshly picked was going to taste. I didn’t know that I was going to want that all the time. I didn’t know I wouldn’t be able to bear eating grocery store eggs or grocery store berries or pretty much grocery store anything. We grow more than half of the food we eat. I think it’s somewhere around 60 to 65 percent of what we eat, but we don’t have the capacity to grow everything. This led to my quest to find what we don’t grow from local farms. We buy humanely-raised, grass fed beef from a farm north of here. We pick our blueberries from a farm about an hour away. We get our apples from an orchard owned by life-long friends of our friends, and we buy milk at a local grocery store that carries milk from a local dairy. And it’s all so good–and good for us.

I realized this last week that, in our effort to either grow what we eat or buy it locally, that are super seasonal eaters. The most interesting thing is that we somehow now seem to crave whatever is in season more than I ever remember craving seasonal food. Right now, we are eating apples for meals and snacks. Before that, it was the tomatoes and peppers. Before that, it was the corn. And, before that, we were eating everything from blueberry muffins to blueberry smoothies.

There are many benefits to eating seasonally, Some I have been aware of; others were less obvious to me. Of course, food is more nutritious when it is fresh and in season, at least for the most part, but since eating seasonally and eating locally go hand in hand, another benefit is that most of our food isn’t shipped from across the country or the world, which is better for the environment. (I say “most” because we haven’t given up bananas. I could, but the rest of the family loves bananas.) It’s also very important to me to support local farmers, especially farmers who are working hard to provide good care for their animals and the earth. But one of the benefits I didn’t anticipate was cost.

I think most people have it in their minds that it costs more to eat from local farms, but there are ways to support local farms that can actually save you money. One of the things we take advantage of us “u-pick” opportunities. We get such good deals by picking our own fruits from local farms. We pick so much that we eat some fresh and then freeze enough to last the rest of the year (at least hopefully). We also take advantage when there are end-of-season surpluses, like apple drops and discounted berries when it’s the end of the season and farmers will drop prices because the berries are just going to go bad if they aren’t picked soon. But, truly, prices at the grocery story are so high right now that it can save you money to go directly to a farmer all the time. Thankfully, we live in an area where farmers frequently sell directly to the public.

Aside from these benefits, there is the noticeable craving we seem to have for whatever is in season. It feels like it’s been a gradual process, but it’s so apparent. In the spring, I start craving spinach. Then, it’s the strawberries. And so on. I looked it up to see if there was something to the seasonal cravings. According to an anthropologist, we adapt to our surroundings and therefore adapt to eating what is available, which is something that changed for us when we started this journey. It used to be that everything was available to us in the grocery store. By choice, we made only seasonal foods available to us.

I also read that the emotion we connect to our food can also be a driver toward seasonal eating, and I can see that too. I have such a love for beautiful fresh foods, and I love when I am eating something from my husband’s garden or from a farmer I know. In addition to my food really tasting better, I add some emotion that makes it taste even better in my mind–or at least this is one possibility.

Either way, I am thankful we homestead and grow so much of our own food, and I am thankful we live in a place with such a strong local food economy. We are very fortunate to eat so well, and we are very fortunate to have figured out how to do it affordably.

3 thoughts on “Eating Seasonally, Eating Locally

  1. Such a great way to eat and live!
    Not everyone can grow or even buy locally but certainly supporting local farmers seasonally is possible for most. We can all do better in that department.
    I see people leaving Walmart with their shopping carts full of uneatable…..in my opinion….food. It is cheap and convenient food so I get the “why” but I don’t have the answer to “how” this can change. These people are obese for obvious reasons….so much packaged food in their carts. This costs us/society lots in health care dollars.

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    1. Pat, just yes to all of this. In terms of how we can change, I am hopeful there can be more movements to support local farmers AND to get that food from local farmers to people. We have done a pretty good job with this in places like Maine and Vermont. But I have family in rural Oklahoma, and they NEVER see a roadside farm stand. They are shocked when I tell them about how things are here in Maine with such easy access to local food. I wish for more of this. I have read about some organizations making progress in this area in some big cities, but we need more, of course. It’s a gradual process, but with the number of farmer’s markets exploding across the U.S., I feel a little hopeful that we are gradually moving in the right direction.

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      1. We have done a great job with local farm stands in ME ( and locally sourced foods) actually in many New England states.
        But it takes time to source and prepare healthy food. I’m afraid many people don’t put the effort in.
        I also feel we are moving more in the right direction with farming being admired and appreciated by more and more so that small farms feeding their neighbors is taking place. It’s a change in attitude that is catching on. I’m afraid the educated and affluent are more the beneficiary than the poor.

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