This year has been a sort of revolution for me, in terms of how I think about my food. I've always dabbled a little in going to farmer's markets, but this year I really got into a routine of buying as much locally produced food as I can. Now I think a lot about where my food comes from, how it was grown, and particularly how far it traveled to get to me.
I like knowing my farmers. Plus, my produce is cheaper because it's organic without the pricetag of organics that traveled from California or below the equator. And, maybe most importantly, it lasts a lot longer since it didn't spend days in a freight train, truck, or boat. The food I buy on Tuesday was picked on Tuesday.
Going to The Food Project farmer's market has been a highlight of my weeks. I'm sad that time is winding down for the winter, but that's the cycle of nature. Because I'm eating more seasonally, there's always something new to try out. Last week, I decided to buy a butternut squash to try to make soup. And honestly, I wasn't crazy about the soup but it was fun to give it a first try, and I realized I LOVE roasted squash. Who knew? The youth who run the farmer's market had a squash tasting station set up, with like 8 varieties to try, all roasted with just a little EVOO (har har), salt and pepper. This week I bought an acorn squash to roast. This spring and summer, I've also made things like lasagna with swiss chard, leek and potato soup, sour cherry muffins, canned salsa, not to mention the freezer jams, peaches, roasted tomatoes, pesto, and berries. My freezer is filled for the winter. When we made a trip to Home Depot last month, I stared longingly at the deep freezers, since every time we open our freezer there is a serious threat of frozen jam falling to smash our toes.
The point of all this is that finally this Saturday I got to repay my gratitude just a tiny bit by volunteering at the farm for a morning. I had SO much fun. Not only was it a beautiful fall day, but I got to chat with one of the youth farmers while we picked a row of green peppers. I got to tell him that I made pizza the night before with one of their green peppers and about my trips to the market, and he told me all about his summer in the youth work crew program, meanwhile munching on green peppers as we worked our way down the row. He gave me some organic gardening tips too.
He said he was driving in Connecticut the other week and started thinking of buying a farm there someday. For real, he stressed. In his other life, in the city, he plays football and worries about whether he and his team will be good enough to get noticed by college scouts, and that if he's offered a scholarship, if his grades will be good enough. But with these pressures, he was so confident overall for a teenager, and so were all the other youth there who had gone through the summer program. They were totally in charge, and were running the show that morning.
After the green peppers, I picked a row of eggplant with a adolescent girl from the city who was volunteering just for the day. Before coming out to the farm, she thought tomatoes grew on trees. Honestly. She was in awe of the tomato vines. That scares me, for so many reasons. What happens when to a society when so many people do not know where their food comes from? When did having a child pick vegetables only once in their childhood become even plausible?
I didn't know what to expect when I signed up to volunteer but there were actually over 60 volunteers there, mostly kids. In three hours we collectively picked over 5000 pounds of produce, most of which will go to area shelters and will supply CSA shares for members of the farm. To see a group of that many kids working on a Saturday morning and having a really great time, making that big of a difference, was totally worth the trip alone.
Never mind the perfect fall scenery.
There's that lovely chard!
And seventeen bushels of green peppers, the last of the harvest this year.
And two kinds of eggplant...
And lastly, what I thought was so cool, a little tea garden... Something to think about for my balcony garden next spring.