Why Buy Local?

Why Buy Local?

In our first post Nick talked a little bit about the “hows” of purchasing from a CSA.  But what about the “whys?” In the weeks and months to come, we will be documenting the farms we visit and the views of the farmers that work so hard to bring delicious wholesome food to our plates. But we have to stop and ask ourselves why? What motivates us to travel many miles to meet these hardworking individuals that toil over the land? What is behind the profound need to know our food growers and see from where our food comes? I do not believe one can begin this journey without first asking themselves these questions and finding answers that are right for them.

When Nick and I started this site we knew that there had to be others like us with the same desire to connect to local farmers, but not necessarily having the means to do so. It was then that we decided we not only wanted to represent ourselves in this process, but also others in search of the same knowledge and resources. Our mission is to develop a connection with the food growers of Wisconsin and come to a better understanding of the purest and most valuable forms of sustenance. Learning the ways, values and techniques of the local, small-town farmer, we will not only answer why we do what we do but why they do what they do.

Here are just a few reasons why we believe buying local and eating local is important:

The benefit of enjoying the highest quality of fresh and healthy food that is in season – Knowing the origin of your food is a valuable resource to which everyone should have access. Many times at the big-box grocery stores we are purchasing food that has traveled many miles with fillers and preservatives that are often unknown. Purchasing from a farm allows you the opportunity to have a dialogue with your farmer regarding the food that is grown so that you know exactly for what you are paying.

Support the “little guy,” not the food conglomerates – We can build a stronger local economy by putting the compensation back into the family farms that have the best interest of their communities in mind.

Reduce waste –  Buying local can cut the upcharge one pays in transportation, packaging and marketing costs of commercial, store-bought foods.

Get creative and make it a family activity – Become an extension of the local farmer by starting your own home garden. Do not let space limit you. Patio and balcony gardens are a manageable and affordable way to grow. At the end of season, experiment with canning, drying and freezing your harvest to last you throughout the year, or share with family and friends.

Become a better steward of the land – help to preserve the natural world for our generation and generations to come by supporting sustainable growing practices that are better for you, your children and the planet.

CSA 101: Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food

CSA 101: Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food

While the majority of Wisconsin residents were throwing back green beer and enjoying St. Patrick’s Day festivities, the Urban Ecology Center in Milwaukee hosted the 10th annual Local Farmer Open House on March 17.

Residents were able to interact with dozens of local farmers on hand promoting their farms and CSA programs. A CSA, otherwise known as community supported agriculture, has become a popular way for the community to purchase local, seasonal food directly from an area farmer.

Kimberly and I attended the event with hopes of signing up for our very first CSA. Boy were we surprised at the number of great local farmers and the services they provide.

Before we made our decision on what farm we would choose, we were able to sit in on three educational workshops. The first was on how to choose a CSA and what to expect, presented by Jamie Ferschinger, community program coordinator with the Urban Ecology Center. Next, Chef Annie Wegner LeFort led a discussion on how to get the most from a CSA purchase with some helpful tips on planning menus, cooking and preserving fruits and vegetables. Lastly, Lynn Markham from the UW System, led a discussion on how pesticides and food choice affect our health and water quality.

Armed with some great information, Kimberly and I navigated our way through the three levels of farmers’ booths. What better way to know where our food comes from than the farm owners themselves. Each gave us a run-down on their farm’s philosophy, how they care for their land, and how they operate their CSA.

Common questions we learned one should ask when searching for the CSA that is right for them are:

  • What do you sell?
  • What are your growing and production practices?
  • How do I order and buy from you?
  • Where and when are your pick-up sites?
  • What is the length of the season?
  • Can you describe the cost and size of your shares?

It is important to pick a farm that has an ideal drop-off location and time that fits into your schedule. While some farms do offer home delivery, most have drop-off sites where participants can pick up their box on a weekly or bi-weekly basis. Pick a CSA that fits the style of food you cook with or eat. Otherwise, you might have a box full of produce that goes to waste. Growing season and the length of the CSA is also important to consider. With pesticide use being a big decider for us, we sought answers on how the farmers fertilize their crops. Some do in fact spray, but have adopted techniques allowed by certified organic farming practices.While purchasing produce through a CSA can be a financial commitment that some may find difficult to make, many farms offer payment plans split throughout the growing season and accept food stamps and worker shares. Along with your box of produce, many farms provide newsletters that include recipes and tips on how to cook from what’s in your box, as well as the farm’s weekly happenings.

An up close and personal introduction with the farmers that are growing your food is an experience in which everyone should partake. Know your farmer, know your food.