Saturday, June 30, 2007

Shop Talk

It's really hard to believe that it's only the end of June, because the summer produce is coming into the farmers' market already!

I arrived at the market half an hour before the official opening time today, partly because I wanted to get a jump start on my shopping since I had a couple of canning projects in mind for the week. I made the rounds and very quickly spent a lot of money on lots of excellent fresh produce:

--spinach, purslane (another wild edible), green beans, broccoli, dill, and black raspberries from the Cheerful Lady
--pickling cucumbers -- a whopping five pints -- from the Amish Farmers
--kale from the Fiddlin' Farmer
--more spelt pasta from the Sheep Lady's friend
--fresh lavender and patty pan squash with the blossoms still attached from a new farmer

--four pints of red raspberries and a pint of huge grape tomatoes from the Berry Farmer
--a pair of cucumbers for eating and a pint of raw honey from the Gentleman Farmer
--a mixed bag of red and Yukon Gold potatoes plus some small onions from another new farmer

The other reason I arrived so early, though, was because the local Sustainable Energy Network (which I recently joined) had planned a series of speakers for the morning, offering the crowd information on reducing energy consumption in many areas of everyday living including... you guessed it... food. And yes, as you might have guessed, I was asked to organize a couple of speakers to talk about the benefits and the joys of local food.

I managed to round up a former contact, Matt, who came to talk briefly about local food systems and the benefits to the environment, and though I wasn't able to sign up one of my
favorite local chefs (to his regret as much as mine), I did enjoy hearing a farmer from the Ohio Farmers Union talk about differentiating local from industrial agriculture and the need for country-of-origin labeling (COOL) for food. (I loved his t-shirt!)

Hearing their words gave me the added courage I needed to get up and give my own spiel a couple of times (with some variations), sharing some of the statistics I've learned over the past couple of years:

--Agriculture is responsible for nearly 1/5 of energy use and 7% of the greenhouse gas emissions nationally.
--American agriculture requires the input of 400 gallons of oil per citizen per year.
--One local and organic meal a week on the table of each U.S. citizen could reduce our nation's oil consumption by 1.1 million barrels of oil a week.

I shared a handout on reasons to eat local, based on information I've learned from some of the other excellent web sites and blogs listed to the right, and I did see some appreciation and recognition among the market-goers about my points about the affordability and great taste of local foods. (I was especially delighted to have the Gentleman Farmer's Wife express her appreciation afterward for some of the things I had said that she wasn't sure everyone always recognized!)

Obviously, to some extent I felt I was "preaching to the choir" about why it's so important to shop at the farmers' market, but since I really felt it was time to speak out more about local foods and their importance to our communities and our world, it was a good way to take a slightly more visible and audible role. Will it make a big difference? I have no idea, but it felt like a good step.

Between my purchases and my talking to other people, I know I'm going to keep supporting these local farmers as much as possible. And with the large numbers of other people doing the same at our local market, I'm optimistic that we will make a difference.


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