As we begin week 2 of the Locavore challenge, we’re thinking of the ways that food brings us together. Most shared meals have this effect, but consider how eating locally offers the chance to make friendships, build new bonds, and keep your community and environment a place to live well. Perhaps you don’t count farmers as regular dinner guests (but invite them, they may really appreciate someone cooking for them after a day of harvesting winter squash), but going out to a farmers market, buying their food, then treating it with interest and eating it with appreciation all go into building community with local food. Imagine if nobody did that–what would happen to the farmer, the farmland, and your surroundings? Now, imagine a brighter future. What would happen if everyone who went to the farmers market convinced ONE friend, co-worker, or acquaintance to meet them at the farmers market. How many more farmers would be supported? How much more food would be available? How much stronger would the local economy be? (If you’re interested in some studies on the impact of small local farms, including how they tend to purchase more of their inputs from local sources, check out studies from the Dyson School of Agriculture Economics and Marketing at Cornell and the Michigan State University Center for Regional Food Systems).
So, what happened in week one? We saw a big uptick in blog visitors, some action on Facebook and Twitter. One Twitter user, Amy Reinink, tweeted us photos her yogurt-in-progress.
— Amy Reinink (@AmySReinink) September 2, 2013
She even strained it to make it Greek-style and posted about the challenge on her blog! Way to go, Amy!
Our summer intern Maddy (you’ll read a post from her in a few weeks) has been working to engage community and bringing them to action through Think Local Geneseo. Here some reasons those people gave why they’re taking the Locavore Challenge:
“I care about local farmers and their families”
“It tastes better”
“Factory farming is wasteful”
“I trust local produce”
“It makes sense”
Many locavores spent a few days last week sharing in traditional foods and activities of Rosh Hashanah. They were brought into community through shared symbols, faith and for those who saw the connection, through local food-sharing. It was indeed possible to have a very sweet Locavore Rosh Hashanah, with local apples and honey representing the sweetness anticipated for the new year. We loved reading blogger Leah’s latest post at Noshing Confessions. What inspiration, as usual, on good food and making the most of the seasonal bounty in the context of age-old traditions.
Some of us have families that give us instant community, and we can share the locavore challenge with them. Sarah Raymond, Membership and Development Coordinator, is going through her first Locavore Challenge with NOFA-NY. Here’s how her first week went:
“This September, as part of my Locavore Challenge, I plan to bring more dialogue into and emphasis on our food activities as a family. As the month rolls on, I will help my kids keep their own Locavore journals, full of drawings, photographs, recipes we used together, stickers, stories, and most likely, a few smudged food marks. I think it can turn out to be a nice little family tradition every September. We began this week by going to our local farmer’s market. The kids picked out some peaches and blueberries to savor and share while exploring the market. Sure enough, not long after the first few bites, a group of kids had congregated together, each investigating and sharing each other’s food, with their parent’s approval of course. That’s one of the great things about food, it brings people together. For my kids, I want them to know that sharing healthy food is a way to show others their love and respect for them. In toddler terms, we like to give people healthy foods to eat because we care about them and want them be healthy so they can have fun.”
Others among staff were impressed that a few words spoken to some fairly new friends (“I’m eating local foods as much as possible this month”) had a noticeable impact on those friends’ food-buying habits. At a recent Labor Day dinner, the hosts were very excited to tell Rachel, Beginning Farmer Coordinator, that the tomatoes were from HER farmer (one she’d pointed out to them upon a chance encounter at the Brighton Farmer’s Market). Everyone at the party agreed they were some of the meatiest, most delicious tomatoes they’d ever tasted. True, when someone hears you’re trying to eat mostly local foods this month, you may have to convince them why you think it’s important (it may not be an instant sell). But if you talk about the challenge in the right way, you can indeed effect change. More on that later this week! Wednesday’s worksheet will help you come up with a Locavore Sales Pitch, so start thinking about why you are taking the challenge so you can tell others about it.
Let’s end this rumination turning the locavore challenge into a community-builer with some kitchen ideas that take a spin on one of our classic locavore activities. That activity, appropriate to Grandparent’s Day (today), is to interview a relative about a food tradition. That’s always a fun one, as some of our past blog posts show. Decades ago, locavore eating was the only eating, and our grandparents (or great-great-grandparents) might not think of this challenge as anything but normal. That’s where traditional foods and regional cuisine comes from–what used to be the best things to eat in that place and time. If you’re low on inspiration from traditions, culture or passed-down recipes, try to make some new ones to repeat. First think, “What are my local foods? What’s available (farm-fresh) to cook with today?” Work backwards to find a recipe that uses that food. We have plenty of ideas collected on Pinterest.
One more crazy idea (and if you e-mail us a picture, we might just post it here next week) to share with friends and family. Pick one ingredient. A fruit or vegetable will be easiest. Obtain a lot of it (perhaps in various varieties, from different farmers). Then make a feast out of it. Don’t just cook one dish with it. See how many different ways you can play with that one ingredient. Chances are that next year, whomever you invited to your Broccoli Brunch, your Carrot Circus, your Pepper Potluck Party, your Eggplant Eating Extravaganza, your Tomato Tournament or your Zucchini Zone will want to join in the fun again! Voila! A Locavore tradition! Try a variety of dishes, some cold, some hot, some raw, some not, to marvel over that one ingredient’s flavor and texture in all its forms.