by Nicole Morrish
On this particular cold October morning I was expecting a dwindling summer bounty, tail-end tomatoes, leeks, onions and a lot of squash. Produce that beckons long-simmered stews, roasted vegetables and foods that allow the hunkering down with the coming of winter. To my surprise I was greeted with all of those things and more. The cold dreary weather had not dampened the bounty of beautiful, local availability of goods and produce. This was a reminder of the bounty and heartiness that this particular growing region provides.
True, the tomatoes were of the tail end of the season, but this took nothing away from their taste and beauty. The crimson red skins brought light to an otherwise cold, gray October morning. The pungency of late onions could be smelled from around the corner, calling “ Don’t forget us; chutneys, relishes, salads and partners to big pots of slow-cooked beans.
There were big, orange carrots perched at the top of stands positioned as the crowning glory of harvest fare, daring the passer-by to ignore them. Colorful winter squash was everywhere raising thoughts of pies and soups. Deep green, purple and reds of winter greens boasted their braising potential maybe with a little cornbread as an accompaniment to a winter dinner.
Local eggs, holiday turkey orders, organic poultry and organic, locally raised beef were all present and available. As I gathered my goods and started for the car my head was swimming in ideas for roasted birds, stuffings, chutneys and pies. But more than that, I was grateful. Grateful for all the local farms and ranchers that enable me to eat locally, with taste and conscious thought about where this food comes from. I do not have to settle for just memories of what a tomato used to taste like. Nothing resembling the supermarket imports that try to pass them as a “tasty” piece of produce. I can have some control on matters of hormone-free and no anti-biotics used, ensuring the dietary health of my children.
The bigger issue than just having options is participating in a bigger goal of helping the local grower, which helps the local economy. We can make an impact on the miles our food has to travel before it gets to us, potentially cutting down on oil consumption. It is all linked together. Taking a quote from Barbara Kingsolver’s latest book, Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, she says, “Eaters must understand, how we eat determines how the world is used.” This is profound. Do we want to, as consumers, contribute to the deterioration of small family farms in this country by supporting the mega-marts that have become so prominent ? While yes, they are convenient and at times more affordable-are we really getting what we pay for?
For the last ten years a local book club here in Boulder has been meeting monthly, discussing the monthly read, visiting, eating and catching up on one another’s lives. This last month the book of choice was Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver. This part memoir, part journalistic investigation reminds us of the age-old truth: You are what you eat. Many of these friends are farmers, ranchers and teachers all with different lives but having the same connecting thread of knowing the importance of “ farm to table”.
I decided these friends would be a good group to pose some questions to.
I wanted to know how easy it is or not in Boulder County to eat locally through out the year. Amy Condon whose family owns and farms Cottonwood Farm in Boulder says, ”It is not that easy. The Farmer’s Market closes in November. If we relied more on canning or freezing local product, then it would be easier. Not many people do these things anymore. To make it possible we need to think ahead about storage of root vegetables, squash etc. We would also need to find local sources for dairy, eggs and meat.”
It is possible and it would indeed take some planning and effort. For many of us it would also take a lifestyle change. Much of the concern around organic eating is that of cost. It can be more expensive and not necessarily a “one-stop” shop. But more than cost, the general consensus around this area is the planning involved. In this time of two income households and heavy kid scheduling, convenience out ways “what” you are eating. Can we get it fast and with the least amount of effort?
Hopefully we can achieve a balance as a community and be willing to plan ahead a bit more, for the sake of our health, our farmers and producers.
As this article comes out the Boulder Farmers Market is now closed until April. But we can still do our part. There are many opportunities to buy local in Boulder. Many of the farms and ranches have websites and will sell direct to the consumer, same with local dairy and poultry. Granted with our cold Colorado winters it is not economically feasible to keep greenhouses heated through the winter, so those greens and tomatoes obviously will not be available in the winter. Next season though, how about buying a case of tomatoes to can, make sauce out of and freeze or sun- dry some. There are options. Many of these places are starting to do just that and sell their product throughout the year. Stores like Vitamin Cottage, Whole foods and Ideal Market in North Boulder carry local cheeses and seasonal produce as well as salsas, hot- sauces, dips and spreads, all produced by local companies. New markets such as Sunflower Market, opening in Boulder are committed to make “buying local” a priority. It may take more time reading the labels, but it is possible to start the change.
Check out the Boulder County Farmers Market link: http://www.boulderfarmers.org this link will allow you to access many of the local farmers’ and artisans’ websites. This link also will show you a Boulder County crop calendar; letting you see seasonally what is available.
I am in no way simplifying the commitment that this takes. I just hope that the message of “how we eat determines how the world is used” wakes us up a little bit.