Even if you don’t drop the word “locavore” in casual conversation, chances are you probably have caught the local food movement wave, even if only with a toe or two. From Michael Pollan to your mother, most folks agree that produce picked just hours ago and minutes away tastes a lot better and makes you feel better.
So how do you work this into your life if you can’t subsist off of the container garden on your deck? One option is to make a regular trek to a farmers market. Meeting local farmers gives you the chance to educate yourselves and your kids about growing practices and how to bring new foods into your family’s diet.
Markets can be busy places for little ones, so plan to go when hunger and fatigue are least likely to rear their heads. Strollers can be helpful for carrying items but tough to push around. Consider first spending a morning checking out markets solo to see what will work best for your weekly family excursion. Market options abound, so pick one that’s the right distance from your house or from parking and maybe within walking distance of a park or a strip of restaurants for pre- or post-market enjoyment. The Del Ray section of Alexandria has all of the above — and a library — near its Saturday market.
FRESHFARM Markets are producer-only; there are 11 of them in the DC area. The state websites for Virginia and Maryland both have local food pages with lists of markets, as do some individual counties. The Washington Post also has lists, including one for the District.
So what if you don’t want to leave your home? Check out a delivery service like Arganica Farm Club or South Mountain Veggies, both of which utilize local produce. If you don’t already buy meat, eggs or dairy from another farmer, Washington’s Green Grocer can hook you up on that front in addition to letting you choose your weekly veggies from local suppliers.
If your home garden is overgrown with veggies but you don’t have access to your own cow, The Local Flavor is another delivery source for meat, and Polyface Farms has a buying club, bringing goods to the DC Metro area every six weeks, spring through fall. Check out Grassfed on the Hill for referrals to pick-up milk and meat buying clubs with openings or contact the Arlington/Alexandria chapter of Holistic Moms Network for a copy of their resources from last year’s Local Food event.
to participate in a share of a farm by investing in Community Supported Agriculture (CSA). Most CSA shares fill up by April (some even in January!), so this summer may be the time to grill your friends and neighbors about what farms they went with and how they like it.
Most CSA drops are weekly events: the farmers leave the bags of food on someone’s porch or bring it to a public parking lot. In the latter case, there is usually a narrow window of time when you’re supposed to pick up your share. For porches, you might only be limited by the farmer’s time in traffic and your child’s nap schedule. Well, that and mid-summer heat wilting your greens, and your host might get ornery if you’re rustling around after dark.
Some CSAs have pre-packaged bags while others leave out bins for you (or your little ones) to choose how much to get of what. Be wary if you arrive late, though; you might get a bag full of rutabagas instead of strawberries. Also ask around about other perks, like days members can visit the farm for a tour or a picnic. Or maybe the farm inserts a witty newsletter with recipes or includes helpful online features like Potomac Vegetable Farm’s ID That Veggie in case you’re new to the world of celeriac and sorrel.
CSAs are great because you know exactly where everything is coming from, and because you get introduced to new foods and ideas. The first time I met a beet was over a decade ago when I picked up a friend’s CSA share when she was out of town. I felt hugely out of my league, but now I have beet kvass brewing on my counter and would have harvested my own beets last year if the deer hadn’t eaten them. (This year we put a fence around our garden. Duh.) The point is, everything is a learning curve. For a look further down the road, check out a copy of the inspirational Flavor magazine.
In any case, getting on the local bandwagon should be a fun learning and eating experience, not a chore. Think of it as preventative medicine for healthy kids and a healthy environment.
Jessica Claire writes about living naturally — most of the time — at Crunchy-Chewy Mama.